Eric Holder on 'Fast and Furious': Never again
Regarding the fallout from Fast and Furious, Holder said that "unfortunately, we will feel its effects for years to come as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crime scenes both here and in Mexico."
ATF lost track of some 1,400 of the more than 2,000 weapons whose purchases attracted the suspicion of the Fast and Furious investigators.
Holder also may be questioned by Democrats on the panel over new FBI rules on intelligence collection activities, an issue of importance to civil liberties groups concerned that in a post-Sept. 11 world, the government is loosening restrictions on investigative tactics.
In the years since 9/11, Congress and the Justice Department have granted the FBI "ever-greater powers to investigate Americans with less basis for suspicion and less oversight," said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Holder, who says he learned of problems in Fast and Furious early this year, has become a focal point for criticism in an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Republican critics have suggested Holder was informed of the problems as early as July 2010 when the operation's name turned up repeatedly in weekly departmental reports. The reports provided updates on dozens of investigations, including Fast and Furious, but do not mention the gun-walking tactic.
The attorney general cited congressional testimony by some of the ATF agents in the probe who said they lack effective enforcement tools. They have sought clearer legal authority to arrest straw purchasers and tougher prison sentences for them. Holder asked Congress to "fully fund our request for teams of agents to fight gun trafficking."
On Monday, the committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked whether the Justice Department's inspector general has expanded its probe of Operation Fast and Furious to include earlier Bush-era arms trafficking probes that relied on gun-walking.
The IG's office says in a semiannual report that it is reviewing Operation Fast and Furious "and other investigations with similar objectives, methods and strategies." A spokesman for the IG's office, Jay Lerner, declined to comment on whether the investigation has been expanded to cover Wide Receiver and the probe that the briefing paper to Mukasey referenced.
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