Justice Department memos obtained by CBS News show that Attorney General Eric Holder was aware of a controversial cross-border law enforcement operation in July 2010 – nearly a year earlier than he had previously acknowledged. Holder told congressional investigators in May that he had first heard of the operation only weeks before.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2011, Holder said that he had “probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” The Fast and Furious operation allowed “straw buyers” – cartel operatives who supply them with American-bought firearms – to purchase weapons in the United States, then transport them to Mexican drug cartels across the border. Of the 2,000 weapons sold to straw buyers, roughly 1,500 remain unaccounted for.

CBS News notes that the pair of memos “directly contradicts [Holder’s] statement to Congress.”

On July 9, 2010, Michael Walther, director of DOJ’s National Drug Intelligence Center, briefed Holder on Fast and Furious, which he mentioned by name, according to one of the memos. The operation “involves a Phoenix-based firearms trafficking ring,” Walther wrote, and an unidentified number of “straw purchasers,” who “are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican trafficking cartels.”

Four months later Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who heads DOJ’s criminal division, informed Holder of eight arrests relating to Fast and Furious, which he also referred to by name.

“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,” the network reported. “And tonight they tell CBS News, Holder misunderstood that question from the committee – he did know about Fast and Furious – just not the details.”

(Hat-tip: Matt Boyle)