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Tens of thousands of Americans are tracking the allegations of a “cover-up” in the Department of Justice’s “Fast and Furious” scandal under Attorney General Eric Holder, according to members of Congress who have been holding hearings on the issue.
Members of the House committee that this week held a hearing for members to quiz Holder on the progress of the investigation say nearly 14,000 Americans logged online to watch the hearing live, nearly 18,000 followed up with visits to FastandFuriousInvestigation.com, and almost 8,500 viewed a diagram of what is suspected to have gone on.
Further, there were nearly 20,000 views of hearing-related videos.
The statements are getting testy, too.
“How many more Border Patrol agents would have had to die as part of Operation Fast and Furious for you to take responsibility,” U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle asked Holder during the hearing.
Her questioning noted that someone needed to be held responsible, and she alone had gotten 30 questions from her district just that morning from constituents who wanted to know what happened and why – and who would be held liable.
The program had federal authorities telling gun dealers to sell weapons to individuals who then took them to Mexico to be used in that nation’s internal drug cartel war. The idea was that the weapons would be tracked and arrests made at the top levels.
However, from information that’s available, the government essentially lost track of most of the 2,000 or so weapons that were involved in the program. Some of them later were found at the site when Agent Brian Terry was murdered.
Buerkle noted that the agent’s family, testifying previously before Congress, had wanted to know if the search for those responsible would track them down – and then would they be charged with facilitating the murder of a federal agent.
Holder said it was an issue that was being addressed.
“We are endeavoring to find out who made the determinations to allow guns to walk,” he said. “We will hold accountable people who were involved in this flawed investigation.”
Part of the hearing:
Holder’s testimony failed to convince fully members of the committee, as they alleged he was continuing the cover-up of the problems.
Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., pointed out that Holder and the Department of Justice were still withholding 93,000 documents. They suggested the committee may need to issue a subpoena to obtain the withheld records if the DOJ refuses to comply voluntarily.
In testimony, Holder admitted that no DOJ employee had been reprimanded or otherwise admonished for their participation in Fast and Furious some 13 months after Terry was killed in Arizona by Mexican drug-war operatives using guns that traced back to the gun operation.
Before the hearing, Issa released a majority report documenting that officials in DOJ headquarters in Washington “had much greater knowledge of, and involvement in, Fast and Furious than [DOJ] has previously acknowledged.”
In one particularly sharp exchange, Issa accused Holder of lying about when he and top officials in the DOJ in Washington first knew about the operation that evolved into Fast and Furious under Holder’s watch.
The majority report charged that for “months, the [DOJ] has stonewalled Committee document requests and refused to comply with committee subpoenas. The [DOJ] has produced scores of blacked-out pages containing no information and many duplicate documents in order to bolster its page count.”
The report asserted that the DOJ is still withholding 92 percent of the documents it has handed over to the Office of Inspector General. It objected as well to the DOJ decision not to hand over to the committee any documents created after Feb. 4, 2011.