House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today pressed the Justice Department to make senior officials available for interviews with the Committee regarding the Department's knowledge of ATF's Operation Fast and Furious following the shooting death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. Specifically, Chairman Smith requested to interview Monty Wilkinson, former Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, and Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division.
Documents released by the Department on Friday indicate that the Attorney General's former Deputy Chief of Staff may have been aware of the connection between Agent Terry's death and Operation Fast and Furious within days of the shooting. The emails also show inconsistencies between statements by Assistant Attorney General Breuer regarding his reaction to the initial discovery that ATF had engaged in gunwalking.
Chairman Smith: "The House Judiciary Committee and the American people have a right to know the whole truth, not just bits and pieces released here and there over several months. As Attorney General, you have an obligation to ensure that the statements given to Congress are both accurate and complete. Unfortunately, the documents released by the Department continue to raise serious questions about the validity of statements made by senior Department officials."
Last Friday, the Justice Department released 486 new documents to the House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees as part of compliance with a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee. The emails show an exchange between Mr. Wilkinson and former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke regarding the death of Agent Terry. Mr. Wilkinson claimed to have notified the Attorney General about the death of Agent Terry and then pressed U.S. Attorney Burke for additional details regarding the shooting. U.S. Attorney Burke later notified Mr. Wilkinson that guns found at the scene of the shooting connected back to "the investigation we were going to talk about." The investigation in question turned out to be Operation Fast and Furious. Mr. Wilkinson replied, "I'll call tomorrow." It is not known if that call ever took place.
Chairman Smith requested that the Department contact the House Judiciary Committee by February 10 to arrange for the interviews of Mr. Wilkinson and Assistant Attorney General Breuer.