09.19.12

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On the Release Of the Department Of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office Report On ATF’s Operation Fast & Furious And Operation Wide Receiver

When Attorney General Holder first learned that tactics being used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in gun trafficking investigations during the current and previous administrations allowed guns to be taken into Mexico, he put an immediate stop to those tactics and referred the matter to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office for a thorough, independent, and nonpartisan investigation. The report released by the Inspector General today should finally put to rest the unfounded claims that these wrongheaded on-the-ground tactics were conceived and directed from the “highest levels” of the Department of Justice.  It is what it always was, a badly conceived effort by law enforcement field agents to respond to difficult circumstances that went tragically wrong.

I want to review the Inspector General’s report carefully with the goal of making sure that the strategy and tactics being used to fight the violence, drugs, and crime along our borders are both smart and effective.  But the report appears to be consistent with what we have learned from our review of thousands of pages of documents and interviews with Department officials.  There is no basis to question the unequivocal testimony under oath by Attorney General Holder in multiple Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that he had no contemporaneous, personal knowledge of the tactics, that he stopped those tactics when he learned of them, and that those responsible are being held accountable.

I commend Attorney General Holder and the men and women at every level of the Justice Department for their dedication to protecting our country and enforcing our laws, and for cooperating fully with the Inspector General’s investigation.  The Department made extraordinary efforts to balance the needs of ongoing and highly sensitive criminal investigations and prosecutions involved here with the need to provide Congress with information necessary for its oversight efforts.  I remain concerned that the congressional investigation may have interfered with the Department’s efforts to fight Mexican drug cartels and to bring criminal charges against people responsible for violence on our southern border and drained resources from the focus on law enforcement.

The brave law enforcement officers on the front lines of the fight against these criminal organizations want nothing other than to make progress in their efforts to secure our borders and assist the Mexican government in its efforts against violent drug trafficking organizations. We mourn the loss of every law enforcement officer who is lost in the line of duty.  One of the best ways that Congress can honor their sacrifices is to continue to support the efforts of the thousands of Federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who are working tirelessly to protect our borders and keep all of us more secure.

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