Holder ducks questions on who highest-ranking official with Fast and Furious knowledge was

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Attorney General Eric Holder again today would not answer who the highest-ranking Obama administration official was that had knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious and the gunwalking tactics it employed before Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered.

Instead, when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith pressed him directly during a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, Holder dodged giving a response.

“Mr. Attorney General, who is the highest ranking official in this administration that knew that these tactics were being used?” Smith asked of Holder at the beginning of a Thursday hearing. “And I’m talking about, knew the tactics were being used before the death of Agent Brian Terry on December 15, 2010.”

Holder attempted to answer a question that wasn’t asked. “Well we know that the operation began in the field offices in Arizona,” Holder said. “Both in the US Attorney’s office and in the ATF office there. The inspector general is in the process of examining –”

Smith then cut off Holder and asked his question again: “To your knowledge, who was the highest-ranking official in the administration who knew about the tactics?”

Holder again deflected. “At this point I can say that it started in Arizona, and I’m not at all certain who beyond that can be said to have been involved with regard to the use — now there was knowledge of it, but the use of the tactics,” he responded again.

Smith rephrased his question, asking: “No one other than the ATF officials in Arizona, you’re saying, knew about the tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious before December 15, 2010, is that right?”

Holder wouldn’t outright deny that officials in Washington, D.C., knew of gunwalking. “I think that in terms in knowledge of the tactics as opposed to the operation itself, I don’t think that anyone in Washington knew about those tactics until the beginning of the year,” Holder said.

Holder also changed his regularly inconsistent testimony about when he first learned of Fast and Furious. “I don’t know the specific date,” he said when Smith asked him when he first learned of gunwalking in Fast and Furious. “I got a letter from Senator Grassley at the end of January of 2011.  I think I became aware of the tactics themselves probably February of 2011, as I’ve indicated in the seven previous times I’ve testified.”

Holder has changed that testimony several times before. On May 3, 2011, he told Congress he first learned of Fast and Furious “a few weeks” before from press reports. In early November 2011, Holder edited that May 3 testimony while appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, admitting it was inaccurate.

“I did say a ‘few weeks,’” Holder said in November, responding to questions from Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I probably could’ve said ‘a couple of months.’ I didn’t think the term I said, ‘few weeks,’ was inaccurate based on what happened.”

Holder saying he doesn’t “know the specific date” on Thursday represents at least the third time he’s edited that testimony.

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