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Why Won't AG Holder Accept Responsibility for Fast & Furious?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pauses at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington

It took nearly 500 pages and many months to complete. A report issued by the Inspector General at the Justice Department points the finger at several federal agencies for the botched gun-running program known as Operation Fast & Furious, which resulted in thousands of weapons ending up in the hands of criminals - a program that resulted in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

The report concludes there were numerous officials who exhibited a complete "disregard" for public safety. One Justice Department official resigned, another retired. The report cites 14 department employees for potential wrongdoing.

But the report exonerates Attorney General Eric Holder. The conclusion: the Attorney General was not in the loop - not made aware of potential flaws in the program until February of last year. Further, it said that the head of the DOJ's Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, failed to inform Holder.

So here we are. No one has been fired. Sure, there have been a couple of resignations and retirements. But a top Justice Department official who failed to act - Lanny Breuer - is still on the job. No disciplinary action taken against him. Many members of Congress believe he needs to go.

And what about the Attorney General himself? The IG report gives him a pass. Shouldn't the nation's top law enforcement officer, who is charged with overseeing all activity at the Justice Department, take responsibility? Why won't he accept responsibility for this disaster? Why doesn't the buck stop with him?

Yes, he issued a statement after the report was released. As you might expect, he continued to distance himself from this fiasco. "The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it."

That reaction isn't sitting very well with those who have been searching for the truth about Operation Fast & Furious for years.

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar still believes Holder should step down. "This report confirms what I have firmly believed and said since information about Fast and Furious came to light - officials at the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Eric Holder, acted with a reckless disregard for the lives and safety of Americans and Mexicans alike," Rep. Gosar said in a statement. "The report shows a lack of accountability and transparency at main Justice, which has been the basis of congressional inquiries."

And there's growing concern in Congress about the information that's been left out of the Inspector General's report. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has worked closely with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on the Congressional probe, says he believes there's key information missing - information that the Obama White House failed to provide. "We still don't know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General."

In the wake of this new report, efforts are likely to intensify on Capitol Hill - there will be more calls to get to the bottom of Fast & Furious and more calls to hold those involved accountable - including the Attorney General.

A spokesman for the family of the slain U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry called the report "distressing" and said the failed operation "was a combination of incompetence and arrogance." As the family spokesman put it: "Something was broken, something remains broken and we have to wait to see if this thing gets fixed."

Jay Sekulow

 

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