U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged the blunders made in the federal Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation in an appearance before Congress, but some Republicans remained unappeased and continued to call for his resignation.
During a packed Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Holder said the sting conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Phoenix chapter, which allowed assault rifles and other weapons to be illegally purchased from Arizona gun shops and smuggled to Mexican drug traffickers in 2009 and 2010, was unacceptable and acknowledged that its repercussions would be felt for years.
The idea behind Fast and Furious was to trace the weapons to powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, but once it got underway ATF agents realized they had no dependable way to keep track of the guns, which eventually began appearing at crime scenes on both sides of the border.
The operation was “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution,” Holder said, acknowledging that Fast and Furious weapons will likely continue to appear in the future at crime scenes in both the United States and Mexico.
It was Holder’s first appearance before Congress since top Republicans probing Fast and Furious accused the attorney general of misleading them in earlier testimony about when he first learned about the details of the sting.
Holder has been the target of a probe by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.), who said last month in a joint statement that the attorney general received at least five memos in mid-2010 that described the ATF’s “gun-walking” strategy.
Holder had testified in a congressional hearing in May of this year that he had learned about the program just a few weeks prior.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Holder said he first learned about Fast and Furious at the beginning of the year and should have said in May that his knowledge of the sting dated back a couple of months rather than weeks.