Advocating on Behalf of the American Military and Defense on the War on Terror
Attorney General Eric Holder vigorously denied a  "cover-up" by the Justice Department over "Operation Fast and Furious," telling  a House panel investigating the botched gun-running program that he has nothing  to hide and suggesting the probe is a "political" effort to embarrass the  administration.
"There's no attempt at any kind of cover-up," Holder  told lawmakers well into a hearing about whether he had been forthright in  responding to requests of the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee  led by Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Murdered agent's family files $25 million suit
"We're not going to be hiding behind any kind of  privileges or anything," he said.
The hearing came after Issa and Sen. Charles  Grassley, R-Iowa, his Senate partner in the probe, asserted that top Justice  officials are covering up events surrounding the flawed gun-smuggling  probe.
Issa made the accusation in a letter threatening to  seek a contempt of Congress ruling against Holder for failing to turn over  congressionally subpoenaed documents that were created after problems with Fast  and Furious came to light.
Republicans also released a report in the hours  ahead of the hearing claiming that Justice Department officials "had much  greater knowledge of, and involvement in, Fast and Furious than it has  previously acknowledged."
Asked whether his assistants, Deputy Attorney  General Gary Grindler or Assistant Attorney Lanny Breuer, head of the  department's Criminal Division, ever authorized gunwalking or the tactics  employed in Fast and Furious, Holder responded not to his knowledge.
"Not only did I not authorize those tactics, when I  found out about them I told the field and everybody in the United States  Department of Justice that those tactics had to stop. That they were not  acceptable and that gunwalking was to stop. That was what my reaction [was] to  my finding out about the use of that technique," he added.
He added that he doesn't think that the situation  warranted the kind of response Republicans were giving after his department  provided thousands of documents, and planned to deliver more.
Holder also rejected arguments that his handling of  the case had lost him any support for the effort he was putting forth as  attorney general.
"I don't think the American people have lost trust  in me. ... This has become political, I get that," he said.
But Holder also said no one has been punished "yet"  in the case, despite the fact that lost guns from the operation ended up at the  crime scene where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in December  2010.
Terry's family has informed the U.S. government that  it has six months to respond to its inquiry into Terry's death or face a $25  million lawsuit.
In the botched operation, more than 1,400 weapons  sold to low-level straw purchasers believed to be supplying Mexican drug gangs  and other criminals were lost during tracking by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,  Firearms and Explosives agents. Another 700 firearms connected to suspects in  the investigation have been recovered, some from crime scenes in Mexico and the  U.S., including in Nogales, Ariz., where Terry was killed.
Holder said he didn't learn about Terry's murder  until 24 hours after his death, and at the time did not hear that weapons tied  to Fast and Furious were at the scene.
"I didn't know about Operation Fast and Furious  until the beginning parts of 2011 after I received that letter from Senator  Grassley, I guess at the end of January and then that was about Operation Gun  Runner. I actually learned about the Fast and Furious operation in February of  that year."
Holder told the committee, "I’m not sure exactly how  I found out about the term, 'Fast and Furious.'" He testified repeatedly that he  never authorized the controversial tactics employed in the operation.
"There is no attempt at any kind of cover-up,"  Holder said. "We have shared huge amounts of information" and will continue to  do so, he said.
But Holder said under questioning that he has not  disciplined anyone for his role in the controversial operation.
"No I have not as yet -- as yet," Holder said when  questioned by Issa on the matter. "There have been personnel changes made at  ATF. We obviously have a new U.S. attorney in Arizona. We have made personnel  switches at ATF. People have been moved out of positions."
Holder's statements on the Justice Department's role  in the operation did not sit well with Republican lawmakers on the committee,  who accused the attorney general of intentionally withholding key documents in  the case.
"The conclusion that I come to is there are some  things in there that's being hidden that you don't want us to see," said Rep.  Dan Burton, R-Ind. "We have every right under the Constitution to check on what  you're doing... So for you to deny this committee anything like that is just  dead wrong and I don't think you're going to find any way that you can do  it."
Burton went on to say that 93,000 documents related  to the operation are being withheld by the Justice Department even though  they've been turned over internally to the department's inspector general, a  political appointee, Burton said.
"And you're saying, well, the separation of powers  prohibits you from (delivering them to Congress). That's baloney. That is just  baloney," Burton said.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also questioned  Holder's having not discussed the case with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
"When people know that I'm going to be the subject  of these kinds of hearings, you know six times and all that, nobody necessarily  wants to get involved in these kinds of things or get dragged into it," Holder  responded.
Issa told Holder the committee will do what is  necessary to obtain the information, "If you do not find a legitimate basis to  deny us the material we've asked for."
Holder said earlier during testimony that he would  release additional materials "to the extent that I can."
In Holder's defense, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.,  claimed the committee has "not obtained one shred of evidence that would  contradict your testimony."
"Not one witness, not one document, not one e-mail,  and still some continue to suggest that you did personally authorize gunwalking  and the tactics in Operation Fast and Furious."