Holder would have 'modified' Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday stopped short of saying he would have eliminated Operation Fast and Furious if he had been made aware of the failed gun-tracking operation before it was put in place.

Holder told lawmakers at a subpanel hearing that Fast and Furious was “fundamentally flawed,” but the nation’s top cop emphasized that “aggressive” and “creative” tactics must be used if the United States has any hope of stopping the flow of weapons to Mexico.

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“I certainly would have modified the program,” Holder said in response to a question from Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), who asked whether he would have eliminated Operation Fast and Furious before it began if someone had told him about the controversial “gun-walking” tactics.

“I mean, allowing guns to walk is simply a procedure that does not make sense. It’s bad law enforcement. And I think that is at the heart of the problem with regard to Fast and Furious,” Holder said.

“On the other hand, coming up with ways in which we stop the flow of guns from the United States to Mexico [means] we need to be aggressive, we need to be creative and we need to help our Mexican counterparts to the extent that we can.”

The back-and-forth between Holder and the lawmakers on Tuesday was much more civil than in the attorney general’s previous appearances before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers on those panels grilled Holder relentlessly, often cutting him off before he could fully answer questions.

“This is very interesting,” he said. “I’m having a conversation about Fast and Furious in a very appropriate, neutral, detached way, which is fundamentally different from my experiences in other committees. And this is almost, I won’t say pleasant, but it’s different.”

Yoder is one of 90 lawmakers in the House who has backed a resolution expressing a lack of confidence in Holder to head the DOJ because of his involvement in an operation that authorized the sale of nearly 2,000 firearms to known and suspected straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels.

Republican leadership has not indicated it will take up the measure anytime soon, but Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has led the House’s investigation of the issue, has threatened to place Holder in contempt if he does not produce documents used to draft a letter to Congress that mistakenly said the DOJ makes every effort to interdict weapons before they cross into Mexico. That letter has since been withdrawn.

Yoder said voters in his district have been hammering him about what he’s doing to hold Holder accountable and that he’s troubled that the attorney general was not taking the congressional investigation seriously.

Holder told the freshman that he wanted to get to the bottom of Fast and Furious, and pointed to an inspector general report that he has ordered. Holder implied that he had taken steps that former Attorney General Michael Mukasey had not taken when he was briefed about a gun-tracking operation that used similar tactics under former President George W. Bush’s administration.

“Once this was brought to my attention, I stopped it,” said Holder. “In spite of what other attorneys general might have done with briefings that they got, when this attorney general heard about these practices I said to the men and women of the United States Department of Justice, in the field and people at main Justice, ‘This ain’t gonna be the way we conduct business. Stop.’ ”