US 'Fast and Furious' gun trafficking operation papers released

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Obama Administration Gives Up 'Fast and Furious' Documents to House

WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice released thousands of subpoenaed documents about the controversial "Operation Fast and Furious" gun trafficking investigation to a congressional committee on Friday, a committee spokeswoman said.

The operation was a failed effort between 2009 and 2011 to stop gun smuggling across the United States' southwestern border by the department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and federal prosecutors in Arizona.

As part of the operation, the department knowingly allowed people to illegally buy guns in the United States and take them into Mexico, court documents showed. A federal judge ordered the department to release the documents to the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The records released on Friday were about the department's internal deliberations on congressional and media inquiries about the investigation, the Justice Department said.

The documents are critical to the committee's efforts to "understand and shine light on what was happening inside DOJ during the time of this irresponsible operation," committee chairman and Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, said in a statement.

As of Friday afternoon, the committee staff had just begun looking through the documents and could not release additional details about them, a spokeswoman said.

The committee sued the department for the documents in August 2012, but the judge's order in January required the department to release a smaller set of documents than those originally requested by the committee.

"Notwithstanding the factual and legal errors in the district court's January 19 order, the Department has decided not to appeal from the court's judgment," said Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik in a Friday letter to Chaffetz.

The committee appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday for the remaining documents it had requested. (Reporting by Julia Harte and Julia Edwards; Editing by Andrew Hay and Grant McCool)

Related: Photos from a recent gun control town hall:

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US 'Fast and Furious' gun trafficking operation papers released
President Barack Obama watches the replay of his emotional speech from earlier this week during a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama, right, during a commercial break at a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama greets Taya Kyle, widow of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, during a commercial break at town hall at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama listens to a question from Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu during a live town hall event with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) at town hall at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, right, stops to greet Father Michael Pfleger, left, Pastor at Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago during a commercial break at a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama answers questions during a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama, left, speaks during a CNN televised town hall meeting hosted by Anderson Cooper, right, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Father Michael Pfleger, left, Pastor at Saint Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago, speaks with former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., right, and her husband Mike Kelly, center, right, before taking their seats for President Barack Obama's televised town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/ NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., right, and her husband Mark Kelly, left, arrive to participate in President Barack Obama's televised town hall at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, is seen on a television monitor asking a question to President Barack Obama during a CNN televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016. Obama's proposals to tighten gun controls rules may not accomplish his goal of keeping guns out of the hands of would-be criminals and those who aren't legally allowed to buy a weapon. In short, that's because the conditions he is changing by executive action are murkier than he made them out to be. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama replies to a question by Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu (L) at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama replies to a question by Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu (standing, L) at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting with CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) on reducing gun violence at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on January 7, 2016. Obama announced limited measures two days ago to tackle rampant US gun violence and called on Americans to punish lawmakers who oppose more meaningful reforms. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama and CNN's Anderson Cooper (R) pause during a commercial break at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VA - JANUARY 7: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama greets former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords during a commercial break at town hall at George Mason University on January 7, 2016 in Fairfax, Virginia. The president this week announced new, relatively mild executive actions to regulate the gun industry. (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)
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