Politics

Eric Holder in 1999: I care about victims [VIDEO]

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

Newly unearthed video of congressional testimony in 1999 by then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder — who would go on to become President Barack Obama’s Attorney General — shows Holder telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that he cares about crime victims. Comments Holder made to the committee back then directly contradict how he’s responded to Operation Fast and Furious with regard to victims of the scandal.

“I’ve spent my career as a prosecutor and as a judge and as United States Attorney – I met frequently with victims of violence,” Holder said. “As Deputy Attorney General, I have done my best to ensure that crime victims are treated properly and respectfully throughout the criminal justice system. One of the most important points I’ve learned from my 23-year career is that every tragic story of victimization is unique and unforgettable.”

Holder’s comments came during an Oct. 20, 1999, Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the process by which President Bill Clinton granted clemency to 16 Puerto Rican nationalist terrorists from the Armed Forces of National Liberation terrorist group that blew up more than 100 bombs around the United States killing several people.

Victims of FALN’s terrorism have said Holder’s pro-victim rhetoric did not match his actions during that time — Joe Connor called Holder “the man partly responsible for pardoning terrorists who proudly claimed responsibility for my father’s murder”.

Over the past two years, Holder’s critics have hammered the attorney general for his treatment of those victimized by the weapons used in the Operation Fast and Furious “gun walking” program.

Holder did not apologize to the mother and family of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry — who was murdered with Fast and Furious weapons on Dec. 14, 2010 — for almost a year after he was killed, succumbing only to criticism from Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn during a November 2011 hearing.

Cornyn had asked Holder if he had apologized to Terry’s family for the DOJ program. Holder replied that he had not.

“I have not apologized to them, but I certainly regret what happened,” Holder said.

Cornyn followed up, asking if Holder has “even talked to them.”

“I have not,” Holder replied.

Cornyn offered Holder the opportunity to apologize to Terry’s family, during the hearing, for his murder. “Would you like to apologize today for this program that went so wrong and that took the life of a United States law enforcement agent?”

Holder expressed his sadness without apologizing. “I certainly regret what happened to Agent Brian Terry,” Holder said. “I can only imagine the pain that his family has had to go through, in particular his mother. I am a father, and have three children myself. We are not programmed to bury our kids.”

“It pains me whenever there is the death of a law enforcement official, especially under the circumstances,” Holder said. “It is not fair, however, to say the mistakes that happened in Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.”

That exchange prompted Holder to later write an apology letter to the Terry family. After Holder sent the letter – and before Terry’s mother even read it – the Department of Justice leaked it to the website Politico in what Terry family friend Lana Domino called a “cold-hearted” action by Holder.