After six years of fighting their release, the Department of Justice will hand over documents related to the botched Obama-era program dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious” to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to a statement released today by the DOJ.
The DOJ blamed the long delay on “the previous administration’s refusal to produce documents requested by the Committee.” The documents will be released as part of a “conditional settlement agreement” with the committee, although the statement did not specify what the details of that agreement were. The settlement has been filed in federal court.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the statement, “The Department of Justice under my watch is committed to transparency and the rule of law. This settlement agreement is an important step to make sure that the public finally receives all the facts related to Operation Fast and Furious.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms carried out Operation Fast and Furious beginning in late 2009. In the operation, guns were sold to known criminals through gun shops in Phoenix, Arizona, so that they could be tracked into Mexico later on. However, ATF lost track of around 1,400 of the roughly 2,000 guns sold during this operation.
Two of these missing guns ended up surfacing at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry by cartel members in December 2010. It was the investigation into the circumstances of Terry’s death that fist revealed Operation Fast and Furious to the public. Some of the gun dealers used by ATF in the operation voiced their concerns about selling guns to criminals, but the program continued anyway.
A June 2017 report from the House Oversight Committee accused the Obama administration of viewing Terry’s family as a public relations “nuisance.”
In 2012, then-Attorney General Eric Holder refused to turn over the relevant documents to Congress. This refusal to cooperate led to Holder becoming the only sitting Cabinet official to ever be held in contempt of Congress. 17 Democrats crossed party lines to vote to hold Holder in criminal contempt, and 21 voted to hold him in civil contempt. Holder himself accused the vote of being “politically motivated.”