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Congressman raises stakes in 'Fast and Furious' probe, targeting Eric Holder

Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas wants a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress the truth about Operation Fast and Furious, a now-discredited gun-tracking program aimed at Mexico's drug lords.

By Staff writer / October 5, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing on the Department of Justice, on May 13, 2010, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

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Congressional Republicans want to get to the bottom of who is responsible for Operation Fast and Furious – a discredited US program intended to interrupt the flow of guns smuggled from the Southwest to Mexican drug cartels – and at least one lawmaker wants to ensure a closer look at what US Attorney General Eric Holder knew and when he knew it.

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Claiming Mr. Holder may have "misled" Congress about his knowledge of the gun-interdiction operation, Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas on Tuesday asked President Obama to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the attorney general told the truth in testimony to Congress earlier this year. The White House so far has not responded.

The Justice Department's Inspector General is already investigating Operation Fast and Furious, as is the House Judiciary Committee under Representative Smith. In addition, Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R) of Iowa are jointly pursuing a probe. A special counsel is needed, Smith said in a letter to Mr. Obama, because the Justice Department can't effectively investigate its own boss.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

Internal Justice Department memos made public this week show Holder had at least heard of Operation Fast and Furious as early at July 2010. He testified in May 2011 that he had probably learned of the program "a few weeks" before his appearance on Capitol Hill. In March 2011, President Obama characterized the operation, overseen by the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), as an ill-advised program. Its aim was to track guns smuggled from the US into Mexico, via straw buyers for the cartels, with the aim of disrupting the networks and nabbing the criminals. But instead the guns ended up in the hands of violent drug-runners, contributing to the deaths of as many as 200 Mexican nationals and, evidently, US border patrol agent Brian Terry, as well as adding to the bloodbath in Mexico's border regions.

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