“Operation Fast and Furious,” run out of the Eric Holder Justice Department, deliberately allowed guns purchased by known criminal “straw buyers” in the Southwest U.S. to “walk” across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Specifically, the Sinaloa cartel imposed a reign of terror in Ciudad Juarez over the last few years, killing thousands of Mexicans and many Americans (including two employees of the U.S. consulate) armed with weapons bought in the U.S. under the watchful eye and with the full knowledge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives, or ATF, of the Justice Department.

In his latest defense, AG Holder lashed out at critics in a letter to Congress on Friday, saying his critics were “irresponsible” and guilty of “inflammatory rhetoric.”

We should have known all along. Bush did it. In his letter, Holder also said Bush also allowed “gun walking” in “Operation Sidewinder.” Of course, if that did happen, Congress should go after Bush, too.

But Holder’s Friday letter digs a deeper hole for the attorney general. Holder denied in writing that he had ever heard of “Fast and Furious” “prior to the public controversy about it.” The public controversy was the assassination of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010 with guns the drug assassins got from the “Fast and Furious” buys.

In May 2011, Holder told Congress he “became aware” of “Fast and Furious” only “a few weeks ago.” Last Friday’s letter contradicts that statement.

Even worse, the Justice Department has released five heavily censored memos from July and August 2010 addressed to Holder and calling the program by name.

Holder says critics have “heaped” disrespect on all law enforcement by attacking him. But law enforcement officials, including 10 Arizona sheriffs who held a press conference to demand Holder’s resignation and the appointment of a special prosecutor, reject the notion, peddled by ATF apologists, that this was a “sting gone wrong.”

Sheriff Paul Babeau of Pinal County told me that allowing gun sales to track the guns to higher up criminals works within the U.S. is a legitimate law enforcement tactic. But allowing guns to “walk” across the border immediately deprives U.S. officials of jurisdiction to follow the guns and make arrests. It is not a legitimate law enforcement tactic under any circumstance.

ATF agent Dodson, whose whistle blowing got CBS News and indefatigable reporter Sherryl Attkisson to blow this story wide open, has testified that, as an ATF agent in Phoenix and part of “Fast and Furious,” he was ordered not to follow or interdict guns or arrest suspects with the guns before the guns disappeared across the border.

“Fast and Furious” was a sham from the beginning, and Brian Terry and hundreds of others are dead because of it.

Of course, Holder has been clueless before on other issues, as he now says he was about gunwalking.

Remember S.B.1070?

That Arizona law would have allowed state law enforcement to inquire about residency status when questioning suspects or witnesses or drivers pulled over in a traffic stop. Failure to prove lawful residency in the U.S. by providing the kind of I.D. that Americans and people here legally routinely carry, would have allowed state officials to bring in federal immigration officers to take it from there.

Holder denounced the law as racist discrimination and unconstitutional and sued the state of Arizona to stop its enforcement.

In a hearing before Congress in May 2010, Holder admitted, when asked if he had read S.B.1070 before denouncing it with such inflammatory rhetoric: “I’ve glanced at it, but I have not read it.”

Remember Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

On Nov. 13, 2009, Holder announced his decision to put the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks on trial in criminal court in lower Manhattan.

KSM had been willing to plead guilty in a military court in Guantanamo in December 2008, but the incoming Obama administration wanted terrorists attacking America in their declared war to get the full protection of the U.S. Constitution. No enemy combatant had ever been tried in civilian criminal court in the history of the country.

Who did Holder consult before making this decision – a decision so unpopular that to this day, KSM has not been tried anywhere and remains at Gitmo?

In an interview with Jim Lehrer the next day, Holder said he made the decision after “I talked to prosecutors in the Justice Department … and from the Department of Defense … who share my views.” When asked if he consulted with anyone else, he said yes. “I talked to my wife … and to my brother, who’s a retired Port Authority police officer.”

It turns out that Holder did not consult with Mayor Bloomberg, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly or any other New York officials who were outraged at the prospect of KSM given a public forum to proclaim his jihadist views just blocks from where thousands died in the 9/11 attack.

Nor did Holder consult with Department of Homeland Security officials according to Janet Napolitano who, nonetheless, was “comfortable” with the decision.

But there’s an older incident involving Holder that convinces me that being “clueless” is just one more phony defense that Holder has employed before and been caught lying.

In 2000, then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder was in charge of the assault on the Miami home of Lazaro Gonzalez where his 6-year-old nephew, Elian Gonzalez, was seized at gunpoint and sent back to his father in Cuba.

On April 23, 2000, Holder was questioned by Fox News host Andrew Napolitano about the Elian Gonzalez seizure. In that interview, Holder claimed he did not need a court order to seize Elian but could not answer why he had sought one from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

When Judge Napolitano asks, “When is the last time a boy, a child, was taken at the point of a gun without an order of a judge?” Holder replied, “He was not taken at the point of a gun.” Judge Napolitano exclaims, “We have a photograph showing he was taken at the point of a gun!” Everyone has seen that photo. Holder’s position: Who you gonna believe – me, or your lying eyes?

Holder has ordered an internal investigation of “Fast and Furious” after assuring Congress that neither he nor anyone in his Justice Department did anything wrong. Well, his rigorous internal investigation should rubber stamp that! Already, the ATF has changed directors, shuffled all the “Fast and Furious” agents to other positions, at least one out of the country and retired others.

CBS reporter Attkisson reports that she was “yelled at” by Eric Schultz in the White House for being “unreasonable” in her reporting of this gunwalking scandal. Schultz told her all the other media were being “reasonable,” i.e. not reporting on this scandal at all. Rumors that CBS would muzzle Attkisson were contradicted when she tweeted me Friday that she would continue her reporting.

Only a determined Congress with Holder and other Justice Department officials under oath can get to the bottom of the gunwalking scandal.

Over the weekend, Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., of the House Oversight Committee told Fox News that his committee would issue subpoenas to Holder and other top ranking officials to testify under oath. Issa vowed to get answers to the questions: “When did they know it wasn’t the right way to do it, and why did they keep doing it?”

Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has joined Issa and Sen. Grassley, R-Iowa, in calling for a the president to appoint a special prosecutor in the case.

Congress deserves support in its quest to get to the bottom of the gunwalking scandal. This is bigger than Watergate. Here, hundreds have died on both sides of the border, including U.S. law enforcement officers, and treaties between the U.S. and Mexico have been violated.

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