No evidence White House withheld information in probe, Issa says

Posted June 25, 2012, at 7:49 p.m.

WASHINGTON — There is no evidence that White House officials were involved in withholding information related to a congressional inquiry into the botched gun-trafficking operation known as “Fast and Furious,” the Republican lawmaker leading the investigation said Sunday.

Several Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, charged last week that President Obama’s decision to invoke executive privilege over documents related to the probe suggested that top administration officials were involved in withholding information.

“The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in a decision that misled the Congress and have covered up the truth,” Boehner told reporters last week.

But asked Sunday whether he had any evidence to back up those claims, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said, “No, we don’t.”

“What we’re seeking are documents that we know exist . . . that are, in fact, about Brian Terry’s murder, who knew and why people were lying about it and get to the truth. That’s all we want,” Issa said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, was killed in December 2010 and investigators later found two guns connected to Fast and Furious, an operation named after the popular movie series that was run out of the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives between 2009 and 2011, with support from the U.S. attorney in Phoenix.

As part of the operation, ATF agents purposefully did not seize more than 2,000 weapons they suspected of being purchased at Arizona gun shops by illegal buyers known as “straw purchasers.”

Wildfires threaten summer Rocky Mountain tourism

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — Brutal wildfires across the West have placed some tourist destinations from Montana to New Mexico in danger just at the height of midsummer family road-trip season, putting cherished Western landscapes at risk along with hordes of vacationers.

In Colorado, the $5 billion tourism industry is on edge as images of smoke-choked Pikes Peak and flaming vacation cabins near Rocky Mountain National Park threaten to scare away summer tourists.

In central Utah, a wildfire in an area dotted with vacation cabins was burning an estimated 58 square miles and threatening about 300 homes. Firefighters had that blaze at 10 percent containment Monday. The Sanpete County Sheriff’s office said that as many as 30 structures may have been lost.

And in New Mexico, firefighters Monday were mopping up a small wildfire that threatened one of that state’s top tourist attractions, El Santuario de Chimayo, a 19th century church north of Santa Fe. The church draws some 300,000 visitors a year and appeared to be out of danger Monday.

Turkey: NATO should view Syria as attacking it

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey said Monday it would push NATO to consider Syria’s downing of a Turkish jet as an attack on the whole military alliance.

The announcement came on the eve of a meeting by NATO’s governing body to discuss the incident. Despite deep frustration among many NATO countries over the conflict in Syria, where the opposition says President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on an increasingly armed popular uprising has killed 14,000 people, it’s highly unlikely the military alliance will take armed action against the Arab state.

The unarmed RF-4E reconnaissance jet was shot down a mile (1.6 kilometers) inside international airspace on Friday, and two Turkish pilots are still missing, the Turkish government says. It has insisted the plane was not spying on Syria.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc also said for the first time Monday that Syrian forces had opened ground fire on a CASA search and rescue plane shortly after the downing, but did not say if that plane was hit.

Arinc said Turkey retained its right to “retaliate” against what he called a “hostile act,” but he added, “We have no intention of going at war with anyone.”

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