Holder hits back over Mexico arms scandal

An estimated 2,000 weapons smuggled into
Mexico as part of a sting operation have been
linked to numerous killings
© AFP/Getty Images/File David Mcnew


WASHINGTON (AFP) – Attorney General Eric Holder is insisting he had no prior knowledge of a botched sting operation that saw US authorities lose track of weapons that ended up in the hands of Mexico’s drug cartels.

In a letter to Congress on Friday, the top US law enforcement official said he was unaware of the operation run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms before it became a scandal, and accused opponents of employing “irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric” in probing the case.

The scandal has simmered for months on Capitol Hill and at the White House. President Barack Obama this week rushed to Holder’s defense, but some critics in Congress are already calling for his resignation and a special investigation into the scandal.

The ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program, which angered Mexico when it came to light, allowed hundreds of weapons to be smuggled into the country between 2009 and 2010 as part of a plan to capture major arms traffickers.

While admitting that senior Justice Department officials were aware to some extent of the operation, Holder insisted he had “no recollection” of hearing about it “prior to the public controversy.”


In the letter, Holder said he was prompted to respond in the wake of a congressional probe in which “law enforcement and government employees who devote their lives to protecting our citizens (are) considered ‘accessories to murder.'”

According to a congressional report released in late July, an estimated 2,000 weapons smuggled into Mexico as part of the US sting operation have been linked to numerous killings, including that of an American federal agent.

The report found that ATF lost track of many of the weapons after allowing them to be taken across the border, drawing harsh criticism in Congress after the revelations.

At least 122 of the weapons were used in crimes in Mexico, according to the report.

Although Holder admitted senior officials knew in 2010 about elements of the ATF operation — as laid out in leaked memos that showed deputies were briefed on the matter — he said they were not made aware of “unacceptable tactics” being employed.

Mexico estimates that 90 percent of the weapons seized from drug traffickers come from its northern neighbor.

Obama says neither he nor Holder authorized the program and promised that consequences would flow from a Justice Department investigation.

“I think I’ve been very clear that I have complete confidence in Attorney General Holder in how he handles his office,” Obama said Thursday.

“He’s indicated that he was not aware of what was happening in Fast and Furious — certainly I was not. And I think both he and I would have been very unhappy if somebody had suggested that guns were allowed to pass through that could have been prevented by the United States of America.”

Republican Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho called for Holder to resign Saturday, and demanded an inquiry into whether there was a cover-up and more senior officials were involved.

“He was either lying to Congress or he was grossly incompetent,” Labrador told Fox News.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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