Thursday morning marks the first anniversary of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death. Terry was born on Aug. 11, 1970, and grew up in Flat Rock, Mich. He was killed with a gun that his own government sent into Mexico, one of thousands of weapons that “walked” across the border in an ill-fated attempt to track the movement of illicit firearms into the hands of Mexican drug traffickers.
A memorial website administered by Terry’s friends describes a young man who stood out from his peers at an early age. In elementary school, his teachers told his parents about his “attention to detail and perfectionism.”
“There was a time when Brian’s teacher called his parents explaining how his Kindergarten classmates would venture outside for recess while Brian would choose to stay inside each day to clean and organize the messy paint jars,” Terry’s friends recall.
”This behavior carried on throughout his school years. Brian would miss the school bus because he was making sure his outfit was perfect,” his friends remembered. “His bedroom was always meticulously clean and he was probably the only boy from Flat Rock High School that made his bed every morning. He had many friends in High School. He was the person that was always helping out other students.”
Before he was a Border Patrol agent, Terry was a marine stationed mostly in Italy, and then a police officer in Lincoln Park, Mich. Though his friends say he “lived life to the fullest,” being a “decorative police officer” wasn’t enough for him.
Terry’s peers describe a man who loved protecting the United States borders from illegal immigrants, drug traffickers and other threats. But that would come to a tragic end: The Obama administration’s Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric Holder’s leadership, facilitated the sale of about 2,000 weapons to Mexican drug cartels via a scheme called Operation Fast and Furious.
Fast and Furious was a program of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 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 Terry. The identities of the Mexican victims are unknown.
After nine months of congressional pressure from Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, the American people now know Holder was sent multiple briefings about the program that led to Terry’s death. The briefings described how guns were being allowed to walk into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels. Holder claims he didn’t read those memos.
While at first defending the Justice Department and the ATF from accusations that it let guns walk, Holder now admits that major mistakes happened on his watch. He does not, however, believe he is responsible for Terry’s death or for the deadly program itself. Holder has also admitted, as recently as Dec. 8 during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, that he does not plan to hold his subordinates accountable for Operation Fast and Furious with firings or resignations. He has also said he has no intention of stepping down.
Terry’s parents, Kent and Josephine Terry, have publicly said they believe Holder is responsible for their son’s death.
“I know they’re lying,” Kent Terry said of claims made by Holder and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer that they didn’t know about Fast and Furious. “I know they’re just nothing but liars.”
“I’ll bet you if he [Holder] lost his son, he would think different,” Mr. Terry added in an interview with Fox News in November.
It took Holder almost a full year to apologize to Terry’s mother, father and family for his murder in Peck Canyon. Both Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Barack Obama had already made formal apologies to the family in one way or another.
Napolitano reportedly came to Terry’s funeral with a letter from Obama in hand, and the president reportedly made an additional follow-up phone call. But Holder resisted apologizing until public pressure and a scathing line of questioning from Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing essentially forced his hand.
Holder finally sent a letter to Terry’s family during the second week of November 2011 — about eleven months after Terry was murdered. DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, dubbed Holder’s “spin mistress” by former DOJ civil rights attorney J. Christian Adams, was likely the Justice official who leaked that letter to Politico before Terry’s mother had a chance to read it.
The resulting scandal has led 57 congressmen, two senators, four presidential candidates and two sitting governors to call for Holder’s resignation. All of them are Republicans. Even some Democrats have criticized the administration for the program, but none has called for Holder to step aside.
The Terry family’s lifelong congressman, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, is one of them.
While Dingell has been vocal about pushing for answers about Operation Fast and Furious, he has not called for Holder to resign and doesn’t believe Holder is responsible.
Before Holder’s most recent congressional appearance, Dingell told The Daily Caller he wanted to see what the attorney general had to say during his testimony.
“As I mentioned in my previous statement, Operation Fast and Furious was grossly irresponsible,” Dingell said in a Wednesday evening statement to TheDC.
“Over the years, I have been a harsh critic of ATF. It is clear in my mind that ‘gun-walking’ tactics are illogical and should never have been used. I was outraged the day I learned about this behavior, and I am still outraged to this day. Furthermore, the fact that a constituent of mine, Agent Brian Terry, was killed in the line of duty because of this gross negligence on behalf of ATF makes this situation even more serious. Someone lost his life defending our nation because of the irresponsible decisions of a few.”
During the Dec. 8 hearing, Holder avoided answering questions about whether he withheld emails and documents about the gun-walking program from congressional investigators — possibly including emails to and from him. Holder also refused to agree to voluntarily testify before the House oversight committee.
Now that the hearing is over, Dingell says he’s waiting for reports from the Justice Department’s inspector general — an investigation that has been compromised for months — and from various congressional committees.
“Congressional committees and the inspector general are currently conducting investigations into this matter,” Dingell said. “I have every reason to believe the IG and my Congressional colleagues are being thorough in their investigations, and I am confident they will do a good job. I am greatly looking forward to reviewing these reports, and if further evidence of wrongdoing by any parties is found then those parties certainly should be held accountable.”