U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, (D-Vt), in the Senate Dirksen Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.
Holder was called to answer questions about a controversial undercover investigation led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and known as “Fast and Furious” during which ATF agents used an investigative technique called “gun walking” that allowed high powered weapons purchased by “straw buyers” at gun shops in Arizona to be “walked “ or “taken” to drug smugglers in Mexico. Under orders by their supervisors, the agents allowed the weapons to move south unchecked hoping that the trail would lead them to identify and arrest the Mexican drug kingpins themselves.
The same technique was used during the Bush administration from 2006-2007 and was known as “Operation Wide Receiver”.
But the trail went cold when agents lost track of the weapons, including hundreds of AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles and of the more that 2,000 firearms that found their way across the border, more than 1,400 are still unaccounted for. In December 2010, two AK-47’s that were traced to the Fast and Furious operation were found at the site of the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, 40, who had been shot in the back during a shoot-out with five suspected illegal immigrants about 10 miles north of the border near Nogales, Ariz.
“Have you apologized to the family of Brian Terry?” Sen. John Cornyn, (R-Tex.) asked Holder during the hearing.
Holder said he had not and continued, “I certainly regret what happened to agent Terry. I can only imagine the pain that his family has had to deal with. It is not fair, however, to assume that the mistakes that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.”
The controversy has raised doubts about when and what Attorney General Holder and his top aides knew about the Fast and Furious operation, and has sparked a U.S. Congressional investigation.