ATF Fast and Furious: New documents show Attorney General Eric Holder was briefed in July 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 3, 2011, before a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON - New documents obtained by CBS News show Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings on the controversial Fast and Furious operation as far back as July 2010. That directly contradicts his statement to Congress.

On May 3, 2011, Holder told a Judiciary Committee hearing, "I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."

Yet internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.

Read the new documents

Read the July 5, 2010 memo

Read the "It's a tricky case" email

Read the memo to AG Holder from Asst. AG Lanny A. Breuer

The documents came from the head of the National Drug Intelligence Center and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

In Fast and Furious, ATF agents allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Gunwalking scandal uncovered at ATF

It's called letting guns "walk," and it remained secret to the public until Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered last December. Two guns from Fast and Furious were found at the scene, and ATF agent John Dodson blew the whistle on the operation.

Agent: I was ordered to let guns "walk" into Mexico

(Watch Holder's statement to Congress in May, 2011 below)

Ever since, the Justice Department has publicly tried to distance itself. But the new documents leave no doubt that high level Justice officials knew guns were being "walked."

Two Justice Department officials mulled it over in an email exchange Oct. 18, 2010. "It's a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but is a significant set of prosecutions," says Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. Deputy Chief of the National Gang Unit James Trusty replies "I'm not sure how much grief we get for 'guns walking.' It may be more like, "Finally they're going after people who sent guns down there."

The Justice Department told CBS News that the officials in those emails were talking about a different case started before Eric Holder became Attorney General. And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee - he did know about Fast and Furious - just not the details.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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