A botched US government operation to track drug
cartels through gun trafficking continues to backfire - having first
led to the death of a US agent and now to a contempt citation for the
nation's highest-ranking law enforcement officer.
A Republican-controlled committee of the House of Representatives Wednesday recommended that US Attorney General Eric Holder be cited for contempt of Congress for his refusal to provide documents on the Fast and Furious operation, in which US authorities allowed guns to cross into Mexico.
The Republican-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voted along party lines, 23 to 17, for the contempt citation.
The vote came despite President Barack Obama's assertion earlier Wednesday of executive privilege to protect the documents sought by the committee.
It was the first time Obama asserted the privilege in his presidency. The documents involve internal Justice department emails on the matter.
Democrats on the committee urged Republicans to hold off on a contempt vote in order to weigh the legal repercussions of the executive order, The New York Times reported.
The contempt citation will be subject to a full vote of the House next week, according to CNN. Republican congressman Paul Ryan told FOX News that the vote could be avoided if Holder produces the particular documents the committee seeks.
This is the first time in US history that an attorney general has faced a contempt citation.
Holder called the committee's vote an "entirely unnecessary action, intended to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch."
"It's an election-year tactic intended to distract attention - and, as a result - has deflected critical resources from fulfilling what remains my top priority at the Department of Justice: Protecting the American people," Holder continued.
Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who called the committee's move a "witch hunt," said Holder had already turned over 7,600 documents to the committee.
The case involves the undercover programme known as Operation Fast and Furious, which aimed to track drug cartels through the sale of weapons. Federal authorities lost track of some 2,000 of the guns, one of which was used to kill a US agent.
Brian Terry, a US border patrol officer in Arizona, was killed on December 14, 2010, by an AK-47 assault rifle that was part of the botched scheme that Holder himself said "must never happen again."
Seeking to underline the growing crisis of the role of US guns in Mexican violence, Holder told Congress in November 2011 that nearly two-thirds of the 94,000 weapons confiscated by Mexian officials in the last five years could be traced to the United States.
In most cases, straw buyers for drug cartels purchase guns legally, either from the 8,000 licensed US dealers or at gun shows within easy distance of the Mexican border.
Once over the border, the guns fuel a deadly war that continues to overwhelm Mexico's local and federal forces.
Obama, shortly after his 2009 inauguration, admitted: "The drugs are coming north, we're sending funds and guns south," and vowed a change.
Most Popular Stories
- Aetna Leaving California's Individual Health Insurance Market
- Honda Says Sorry About the Lack of Electric Fits
- Calories Count: Starbucks to Post the Numbers on Menu Boards
- Comcast Takes a Stake in a YouTube Content Provider
- MillerCoors Taps New Hispanic Ad Agency
- OSH Selling Most of Its Stores to Lowe's
- What Will Happen When Quantitative Easing Ends?
- Is Stock Balloon Really a Pinata?
- Charitable Giving Sees Encouraging Growth
- First Person Cured of AIDS Virus Wants to Help Others