Attorney General Eric Holder faced off against Republicans on February 2, denying any sort of government cover-up of the Fast and Furious operation, the latest in a series of Gun Walking programs that began in 2006 in Arizona. Gun Walking programs are operations in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) works with licensed gun sellers, intentionally selling hi-tech guns to Mexican drug cartels and then working with the Mexican government to monitor where the guns go once they are smuggled across the border. The bulk of these operations have taken place in Arizona and were run out of ATF offices in Phoenix and Tucson.
Speaking to an angry crowd of lawmakers, Holder promised that those responsible would face the appropriate consequences.
I assure you those people will be removed from federal service, Holder said, adding that these charges will be brought against the guilty parties in the next six months.
Republicans countered that the Justice Department has acted too slowly in responding to the controversial Fast and Furious program.
We find out you've not fired a single individual, said North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry. We find out that you have not rebuked any staff members. Heck, you haven't even put a letter in people's personnel file saying that they... on their watch, acted and an agent was murdered. That is absolutely absurd.
The operation was brought to light 13 months ago when Federal Agent Brian Terry was shot to death in a showdown with a group of suspected cartel members near the Arizona-Mexico border. Terry radioed that he had been shot and paramedics arrived within minutes but were too late to save his life. However, two guns purchased through Fast and Furious were found near the scene, and one bandit, Jaime Avila, was apprehended by Federal Agents. Avila had purchased two assault rifles at the Lone Wolf Trading Company in Arizona in 2010, claiming that they were for personal use.
Terry's family has decided to sue the Federal Government for $25 million, claiming that the government knew about their son's death but tried to cover it up in order to protect the Fast and Furious operation.
One of Terry's colleagues has also spoken out, telling CNN, I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest. I hope the committee will receive a better explanation that I [did].
After the Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, Rep. Darrel Issa, a Republican from California, tweeted, Thanks for tuning into http://Fastandfuriousinvestigation.com. You saw just how far @thejusticedept & #Holder will go to block #fastandfurious accountability. Issa has threatened to begin a contempt proceeding in order to force Attorney General Holder to release more documents related to the Gun Walking operation.
The Attorney General has denied any knowledge of Fast and Furious, and for the time being the highest ranking government official involved in the operation is Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer.
Gun Walking operations in the U.S. began in early 2006 when a licensed Arizona gun dealer, Mike Detty informed the ATF about suspicious gun purchases. He was soon hired as a confidential informant and worked with the ATF's Arizona office in Tuscon for Operation Wide Receiver. Through late 2007, Detty sold over 400 guns, the vast majority of which the ATF lost track of as they were smuggled into Mexico.
Under President George W. Bush's presidency no charges were made against those involved in the operation. When Barack Obama took office in 2009 indictments were made against nine government employees. Five pled guilty, charges against one were dropped, one has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison, and two remain fugitives.
At the same time the ATF was starting up a new Gun Walking operation with Fast and Furious, and now that it has become public knowledge the Republicans are screaming for blood. Setting their sights on Holder and Breuer and maybe even the President.