Under court order, the Justice Department turned over nearly 65,000 documents Monday night pertaining to the botched Fast and Furious gun operation.
For years, these documents have been at the center of a dispute between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans, who demanded the documents back in 2011 as part of the investigation into the case.
The documents were previously withheld under the administration’s claim of executive privilege.
They portray the behind-the-scenes effort at the Justice Department to respond to the beginnings of the scandal over a flawed operation run by agents from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and prosecutors in the Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Suspected gun traffickers were allowed to buy thousands of weapons, many of which turned up at violent drug cartel crime scenes in the United States and Mexico. The operation was exposed when a U.S. border agent was killed in a shootout near the Arizona-Mexico border and two firearms tied to Fast and Furious suspects were recovered at the scene.
At first, the Justice Department incorrectly said that the ATF always tried to stop weapons from being trafficked.
After months of revelations from whistleblowers, the Justice Department acknowledged the scope of Fast and Furious, and the scandal badly damaged Attorney General Eric Holder’s standing. He became the first sitting Cabinet member to be held in contempt of Congress.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, said the documents turned over don’t satisfy a lawsuit he spearheaded seeking materials.
Issa said in a statement: “When Eric Holder wants to know why he was the first Attorney General held in criminal contempt of Congress, he can read the judge’s order that compelled the production of 64,280 pages that he and President Obama illegitimately and illegally withheld from Congress.
“Since these pages still do not represent the entire universe of the documents the House of Representatives is seeking related to the Justice Department’s cover-up of the botched gun-walking scandal that contributed to the death of a Border Patrol agent, our court case will continue.
“I am deeply concerned that some redactions to these documents may still be inappropriate and contrary to the judge’s order in the case. This production is nonetheless a victory for the legislative branch, a victory for transparency, and a victory for efforts to check executive branch power.
“As the production is extensive and may contain sensitive information, our investigative staff will be carefully examining the documents.”