- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2011

Ever since the Department of Justice’s gun-running operation known as Fast and Furious became public, the Obama administration’s response has been slow and infuriating. Of particular concern is Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s lack of candor concerning what he knew and when he knew it.

This is not a typical case of bureaucratic bungling. A 40-year-old Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, and possibly a U.S. immigration agent, are dead because of a horribly ill-conceived Justice Department operation that went tragically wrong.

Hundreds of Fast and Furious firearms have been implicated in criminal activity, and another 1,400 firearms are on the street because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives engaged in gun-walking - the selling of firearms to straw purchasers in an attempt to locate major weapons traffickers in Mexico. This controversial tactic, involving thousands of weapons, means that brave law enforcement personnel along the border remain at risk.

As details come to light, a larger shadow has been cast on Mr. Holder. When initially asked under oath to say when he first knew about Fast and Furious, Mr. Holder told the House Judiciary Committee on May 3, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

But the evidence casts serious doubt over that claim. First, President Obama had commented publicly on the operation, noting on March 22 - more than a month before Mr. Holder’s sworn statement - that an inspector general had been assigned to investigate the matter.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had sent a letter to the Justice Department on Feb. 16 requesting documents on Fast and Furious. That Mr. Holder did not know about Fast and Furious before Mr. Grassley’s letter and Mr. Obama’s public comments is simply inconceivable.

Perhaps more damning is that records show Mr. Holder was briefed about the operation as far back as July 2010, when the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, Michael F. Walther, sent Mr. Holder a written memo that his agency would assist in the investigation of a gun trafficker who had acquired weapons under Fast and Furious. Another memo, from Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, notified Mr. Holder of a sealed Justice Department indictment against weapons traffickers in Arizona.

Mr. Holder’s proclaimed ignorance leaves Americans to draw one of two conclusions: Either he is guilty of extraordinary bureaucratic incompetence or he is guilty of a cover-up meant to shield him from the consequences of an operation that has left at least one federal agent dead and continues to imperil many more.

Either way, it is high time for Mr. Holder to step down. If he refuses to resign, Mr. Obama must fire him immediately.

Under the attorney general’s leadership, our nation’s top law enforcement agency proactively armed some of the most dangerous criminal organizations in North America, and at least one American is dead as a direct result. The damage done to Mr. Holder’s credibility is irreparable.

Moreover, Mr. Holder never apologized to - or even spoke with - the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Terry until he was confronted by Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, earlier this month, nearly a year after Terry’s murder.

Drug violence is a serious threat to the United States and our citizens as cartels wage a bloody turf war. Additionally, as Mr. Holder himself announced recently, an Iranian national has been arrested for seeking the assistance of Mexican drug-cartel members in a plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington.

Mexican drug cartels are a clear and present danger to America. More than 35,000 people have been killed in that country’s drug war in the past five years alone, and the violence threatens to spill across our border every day.

America simply cannot tolerate an attorney general who arms the very criminals he is supposed to protect us from and then refuses to comfort the grieving parents of a slain Border Patrol agent. Nor can we tolerate a president who lacks the courage to take decisive action in restoring justice to the Department of Justice.

It is time for Mr. Holder to go.

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