Under fire for losing track of weapons that turned up at crime scenes along the Southwest border, the Justice Department has taken the extraordinary step of formally withdrawing an inaccurate letter about the episode that it sent to Congress earlier this year.
Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole sent nearly 1,400 pages of emails and other documents to Capitol Hill late Friday afternoon that lay bare the raw and sometimes cringe-worthy process by which the letter was drafted. The materials contain clues into how misleading information about the botched gun trafficking operation made it into a Feb. 4, 2011 letter to Congress that department leaders have since acknowledged was false.
Misleading Congress can be a prosecutable offense if a person who makes the statements knows they are false. But Attorney General Eric Holder has told lawmakers that so far he has no evidence anyone intended to deceive them. The matter remains under investigation not only by Republicans in Congress but also the Justice Department's inspector general.
For those of you, like me, who haven't really been following this issue, the details still seem sort of murky, but it appears that the DOJ knowingly allowed seized weapons to "walk" south across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels who of course used said weapons to kill hundreds of people, including U.S. customs against Brian Terry. Accused of this in February, the DOJ denied it a letter to Congress:
In a letter last February to Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had not sanctioned the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser and that the agency makes every effort to intercept weapons that have been purchased illegally. In Operation Fast and Furious, both statements turned out to be incorrect.
The Justice Department letter was responding to Grassley's statements that the Senate Judiciary Committee had received allegations the ATF had sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to suspected straw purchasers. Grassley also said there were allegations that two of the assault weapons had been used in a shootout that killed customs agent Brian Terry.
Maybe there's something I'm not seeing here, but I don't see how Attorney General Holder survives this. Whether or not he was personally aware of it, people under his supervision actually sent a letter to Congress categorically denying things about their own actions that turned out to be true, not to mention that the underlying policy seems incredibly ill-advised.
Bonus question: some of the emails released to the public seemed to indicate that this controversy has something to do with gun control, but I don't exactly understand why. Anyone?
2:36 PM PT: h/t to OMwordTHRUdaFOG and gerrilea for answering in the comments the "bonus question" about what all of this has to do with gun control. Apparently the Obama Administration has been using the use of U.S.-bought guns by Mexican drug cartels to argue for stricter gun control in the U.S. Now it turns out that it was the Obama Administration itself that was providing them those guns. Nice.