Republicans are accusing the U.S. Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder of hiding information about the so-called “Fast and Furious” gun sting operation.
“Fast and Furious,” also known as “Operation Gunwalker,” was a federal effort by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to stop gun trafficking along the Mexican border.
The plan was to purposely allow “straw purchasers” to buy the weapons so officials could later build a case against the drug cartels for using them. However, the plan backfired when two of the guns were used in the murder of a Border Patrol agent last December.
Republicans on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee are conducting a high-profile investigation into the plan, using it to attack the Obama Administration. One of those on the committee is Fourth District Congressman Trey Gowdy.
Gowdy, a former state prosecutor, told Greenwood affiliate WLMA he was uncomfortable criticizing law enforcement, but added “the facts are what they are.”
“This was an ill-conceived, ill-executed gun trafficking operation that was never going to work,” he said.
ATF is an agency under the Justice Department’s control. Attorney General Eric Holder told the committee in May that he had learned about the operation in April 2011, five months after Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in a firefight with gun smugglers and two months after a report surfaced linking the ATF operation to the weapons used by his killers.
However, in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said he believed Holder had to have known about the operation much earlier. Gowdy agreed, saying President Obama knew about the plan in March (when, in an interview, he said “serious mistakes” had been made in the operation). “How can the President know about ‘Fast and Furious’ and the Attorney General not?” Gowdy said.
Holder said previously that he meant he did not know the specifics of “Fast and Furious” until April. “Prior to early 2011, I certainly never knew about the tactics employed in the operation,” he said on October 8. He said he changed the leadership at ATF and asked for an Inspector General review once he learned about the operation.
The committee has requested hundreds of documents about the operation, but members say most of those they receive are heavily censored. The Justice Department says the details have to be classified because they involve active investigations against drug cartels.
Gowdy said the operation should never have happened and was doomed from the start. “I just wish they would have run it by someone who actually understands investigations and gun prosecutions,” he said, “Because I would have been happy to tell them, ‘This is never going to be successful.”
Anne Eller of Greenwood affiliate WLMA contributed to this report.