MIAMI — President Barack Obama on Thursday denied an official report into a disastrous US-government gun trafficking sting on the Mexican border, which cleared Attorney General Eric Holder, was a “whitewash.”
A report published Wednesday by the Justice Department’s inspector general detailed “serious failures” by officials in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in the “Fast and Furious” operation.
Obama said at a forum for Latino voters in Miami that the report was “not a whitewash in any way. I mean, it was tough on the Justice Department, and it indicated that potentially, more supervision was needed.”
“It was, I think, independent, honest, it was a clear assessment of what had gone wrong in that situation,” he said.
“Eric Holder has my complete confidence because he has shown himself to be willing to hold accountable those who took these actions and is passionate about making sure that we’re preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands.”
The Fast and Furious program allowed people linked to drug gangs to buy automatic weapons in the United States, so they could be tracked and help agents identify Mexican drug trafficking routes.
But the sting backfired and officials lost track of many of the guns. Two weapons were later found at the murder scene of a US border patrol agent.
The inspector general said he found no evidence that Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, “or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation.
The report was however scathing about those who did run the operation.
“Operation Fast and Furious received little or no supervision by ATF Headquarters, despite its connection to a dangerous narcotics cartel in Mexico, the serious risk it created to public safety in the United States and Mexico, and its potential impact on the country’s relationship with Mexico,” the report stated.
Authorities in the ATF and the US attorney’s office in Arizona who designed, implemented or supervised Fast and Furious will be reviewed and possibly punished, Holder said in a statement after the inspector’s report came out.
He also accepted the resignation of a deputy assistant attorney general.
The report mentioned 14 government employees for possible disciplinary action.