October 04, 2011 4:30 pm ET - by Matt Gertz
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has long insisted that if Attorney General Eric Holder didn't know about Operation Fast and Furious, the botched ATF gunrunning sting, then he should have known. Earlier this month, Issa explained:
"We have a paper trail of so many people knowing that the only way the attorney general didn't know is he made sure he didn't want to know," Issa said. "But if you don't want to know something of this sort then you shouldn't have the job he has. And ultimately one of the questions is, if he didn't know, is he that inept that he is dangerous to have as the attorney general, and that is for the president to decide."
Issa will now be challenged to extend that line of logic to members of his own party. This afternoon, the Associated Press reported that, according to two federal law enforcement sources, during the Bush administration the ATF ran a similar program that "allowed hundreds of guns to be transferred to suspected arms traffickers." From the AP:
Federal law enforcement officials familiar with the matter say Operation Wide Receiver began in 2006 after the agency received information about a suspicious purchase of firearms. The investigation concluded in 2007 without any charges being filed.
After Obama took office, the Justice Department reviewed Wide Receiver and discovered that ATF had permitted guns to be transferred to suspected gun traffickers, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the practice is under investigation by Congress and the Justice Department inspector general's office.
The AP article tracks with that of CBS' Sharyl Attkisson, who reported back in March that tactics similar to those used in Operation Fast and Furious had previously been used in the Bush-era Operation Wide Receiver.
Hearings into these controversial tactics shouldn't be partisan: Issa should expand them to include examining what then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-President Bush knew about these operations.
Of course, Issa has long made clear that he is more interested in partisan attacks than problem-solving. We're still waiting for Issa to reschedule his hearing on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which was cancelled after it became clear that it was the commission's Republicans, not its Democrats, who had a problem with partisanship and conflicts of interest.
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