House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa told The Daily Caller that Attorney General Eric Holder owes an apology to the Mexican government and to the families of Operation Fast and Furious victims south of the border.
“Justice has blood on their hands,” Issa said Wednesday during an exclusive interview with TheDC, referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The attorney general, as the head of Justice, has to explain that to the families of survivors,” Issa said. “Yes, he should find a way to make it very clear to our neighbors to the south — at least to the government and at least publicly — that there needs to be deep regret for what happened and there needs to be reassurances that it never happens again.”
Fast and Furious was a program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, overseen by Holder’s DOJ. It sent thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via straw purchasers, people who legally purchased guns in the United States with the known intention of illegally trafficking them somewhere else.
At least 300 people in Mexico were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, as was U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. At this point, the identities of the Mexican victims are unknown.
Both President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized to Terry’s family almost immediately. Napolitano attended Terry’s funeral with a letter from Obama in hand, and the president made an additional phone call expressing his condolences.
But Holder never apologized to Terry’s family until after Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn pressed him during a Nov. 8, 2011 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about why he had not done so. Holder finally wrote an apology letter to Terry’s family mere days later, but leaked it to Politico before Terry’s mother Josephine read it.
Florida Republican Rep. Allen West, one of the many members of Congress who think Holder should lose his job, called Holder’s decision to leak the apology letter “reprehensible.”
Issa said an apology similar to the one Josephine Terry finally received is the least Holder owes Mexico’s Fast and Furious victims.
“We can’t bring these people back to life,” Issa told TheDC. “But at least the kind of condolence that eventually came to Mrs. Terry is a minimum that people south of the border are demanding — and they have a right to.”
It’s unclear if Holder will actually apologize to the families of the victims in Mexico. DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, who former DOJ civil rights division attorney J. Christian Adams has dubbed Holder’s “spin mistress,” did not return a request for comment.
In addition to the hundreds of Mexican victims and Brian Terry, allegations have surfaced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata was also killed with Fast and Furious weapons. There is evidence suggesting that Zapata’s murder, like Terry’s, was connected to Fast and Furious. But Issa told TheDC that “we may never know if Jaime Zapata was murdered with Fast and Furious weapons.”
“But what we do know is that enough weapons were down there that inevitably more will die, both Americans and Mexicans,” Issa added. “And this program is the kind of program that will continue unless we get a change in how Justice views things, and certainly a change in how political appointees are viewing it.”