The family of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry, killed by Mexican bandits at a site where investigators found weapons purchased during the Fast and Furious operation, said if Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. did not know about the investigation or its tactics, he should have and should now accept responsibility.
“Mr. Holder may choose not to apologize to the Terry family for the role ATF and DOJ played in the death — but the attorney general should accept responsibility immediately. It is without question the right thing to do,” the family said in a statement released Wednesday by their attorney, Lincoln Combs, through Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.
The statement said Mr. Holder told a Senate committee Tuesday he “regrets” the Terry killing and called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s Fast and Furious operation “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution.”
“Yet, when Sen. John Cornyn asked him if he had spoken to or apologized to the Terry family, Mr. Holder replied that he has not spoken to the family nor has he apologized for the actions of ATF and the U.S. Attorney´s Office in Phoenix,” the statement said. “Instead, he said it´s unfair to assume that mistakes from Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.”
The statement noted that the men who killed Terry were armed with “brand new military grade assault weapons and ammunition purchased with the full approval of ATF and the U.S. attorney´s office in Arizona; both agencies falling under the control of the attorney general.”
“Now common sense would dictate that law enforcement should never let guns walk; yet, ATF let guns walk. Common sense would dictate that law enforcement should never allow guns to be delivered to dangerous criminals; yet, ATF allowed weapons to flow to members of certain Mexican drug cartels,” the statement said.
“ATF chose not to interdict those guns. Common sense would dictate that only bad things can happen when dangerous criminals are allowed to purchase military grade assault weapons; yet, ATF ignored that risk,” it said.
The statement said President Obama has spoken often about the need for transparency in government and has said that those who “screwed up” in Fast and Furious would be held accountable.
“Well, we know who screwed up: they were ATF supervisors in the Phoenix field office who thought up and initiated this plan, ATF Headquarters executives who allowed it to continue, and officials in the Department of Justice who didn´t put a stop to it when they had the opportunity,” the statement said.
The statement described Fast and Furious and the way it was handled as “excellent examples of the precise need for transparency and accountability.”
Agent Terry, 40, was shot in the back and killed during a gunfight about 10 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border near Rio Rico, Ariz., 60 miles south of Tucson.
Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Arizona, who resigned in the wake of a congressional probe into Fast and Furious, has admitted leaking a sensitive memo about a federal agent who blew the whistle on the operation.
Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said in a statement late Tuesday the leaked memo was “deemed so sensitive by the Justice Department” it was not provided to Congress, except in a secured room at Justice headquarters.
The leak targeted ATF Agent John Dodson, who told a House committee in June that ATF superiors told him to stand down and watch as weapons flowed from gun dealers in Arizona to drug cartels in Mexico as part of the Fast and Furious operation.
Mr. Grassley said the Justice Department has confirmed that its inspector general continues to investigate the leak, “which means there are others who may be involved in drafting and distributing” the leak to the press.
In August, Mr. Burke resigned while Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, lead prosecutor in Fast and Furious, was reassigned from the criminal division to the civil division. Kenneth E. Melson, ATF’s acting director, was reassigned the same day as a senior adviser on forensic science.
Mr. Burke’s attorney, Lee Stein, said in a Nov. 8 letter to acting Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar — which was posted on Politico — his client provided information to a reporter he knew who was working on Fast and Furious. Mr. Stein said “it was clear” to Mr. Burke the reporter had either seen the memo, written by Mr. Dodson, or had it read to him.
The attorney said Mr. Burke wanted “to give context to information the reporter already had,” noting that the memo’s topics involved closed investigations and was not subject to any limitations on disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
Mr. Dodson’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, said in a statement: “Special Agent Dodson demonstrated both tremendous courage and fidelity to the mission of ATF when he came forward to discuss the misguided Fast and Furious investigation. It is unfortunate his superiors at ATF and DOJ did not listen to his attempts to address the matter internally, and instead chose to attack him once he, out of necessity, stepped forward.”
Mr. Driscoll said Mr. Burke’s public acknowledgment that he participated in “misguided efforts to smear Agent Dodson is welcome, but unfortunately Burke did not act alone in attempting to ruin Special Agent Dodson’s career.”