Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder was grilled by Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday about the Justice Department’s botched sting Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed guns to flow untracked into the U.S. and Mexico, putting thousands of illegally purchased firearms on the street, one of which led to the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in the Arizona desert.
Republican questioners even forced Holder to admit his initial statements to Congress about his knowledge of the gun-walking were "inaccurate.” But the New York Times's print edition completely skipped it.
Reporter Charlie Savage’s story, “Holder Urges Lawmakers to Support Efforts to Stop Gun Trafficking,” apparently never even made it into print. And as that headline shows, the Times was in spin mode for the administration, emphasizing Holder’s wish “to move past the political furor” (though one couldn’t detect much furor in the paper’s previous sparse coverage) and completely omitting Holder's admission of "inaccuracy."
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Tuesday sought to move past the political furor over Operation Fast and Furious, the disputed Arizona gun trafficking investigation, to the wider problem of the flow of American firearms to Mexican drug cartels -- and what he portrayed as roadblocks members of Congress have thrown up to stemming that flow.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Holder criticized a recent vote by the House of Representatives to block a new regulation requiring firearms dealers along the Southwest border to report multiple sales of semiautomatic rifles. He also said lawmakers should increase financing for firearms investigation and strengthen “statutory tools” to stop the flow of guns to Mexico.
Savage paraphrased Republican questioning Holder on what he knew and when he knew it, but completely ignored the Attorney General's confession that he regretted being “inaccurate” in his previous statements about Fast and Furious. While Holder had said in a previous hearing that he had only heard about the program’s tactics “in the last few weeks,” on Tuesday he said he had actually learned about the program at the beginning of the year. But the Times ignored Holder’s confession.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the panel, rejected any need for additional measures. “This tragedy should not be used to call for new gun control,” he said. He also sought to keep the focus on Fast and Furious, grilling Mr. Holder about what and when he and other top officials had known about the tactics used in the program.
Fast and Furious was an investigation into a gun trafficking network, and was run by the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from late 2009 to early 2011. It was internally controversial because some A.T.F. agents believed they were not being allowed to move quickly enough to contact “straw buyers” and interdict guns because supervisors wanted to wait and identify kingpins.
By contrast, the Washington Post played it on page 2 Wednesday, leading with Holder taking back his previous congressional testimony regarding when he learned of the operation: “Holder amends remarks on gun sting – Attorney general heard of ‘Fast and Furious’ earlier than he first said.” More from Wednesday's Washington Post:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told Senate Republicans on Tuesday that the Justice Department provided “inaccurate” information to Congress on the “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking sting and said that his congressional testimony about when he learned of the controversial operation had been imprecise.
Holder said that a Feb. 4 letter to congressional investigators, in which the department denied allegations that agents had allowed guns to flow illegally onto U.S. streets and into Mexico, was wrong. He said Justice officials learned only some time after they sent the letter that the tactic, known as “gun walking,” had been extensively used in the Phoenix-based Fast and Furious.
“The information in that letter was inaccurate. That letter could have been better crafted,” Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Blaming the mistake on bad information supplied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, Holder said: “That’s something I regret.”
Under gentler questioning from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee chairman, Holder also acknowledged the imprecision of his May 3 testimony. At that hearing, he said he “probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”
On Tuesday, Holder amended his recollection, saying that he had actually learned about the program at the beginning of this year. “I should probably have said a couple of months,” said Holder, who defended his overall handling of the controversy as “responsible” and made it clear that he has no plans to resign, as some Republicans have urged.