Attorney General Eric Holder regrets death of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry

Attorney General Eric Holder answers questions on Operation "Fast and Furious" at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, November 8, 2011. CBS

WASHINGTON - At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, Attorney General Eric Holder said he regrets the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) asked Holder if he's spoken to or apologized to Terry's family. Terry was murdered last December by suspected cartel bandits. Two assault rifles from the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation Fast and Furious were found at the scene.

Holder says he hasn't spoken to Terry family, but "I certainly regret what happened to Agent Brian Terry, I can only imagine the pain the family had to deal with." Holder adds it's "not fair, however, to assume" that mistakes from Fast and Furious directly led to the death of Agent Terry.

"We are not programmed to bury our kids," Holder said. "It pains me whenever there's the death of a law enforcement official. "

Holder on "Fast and Furious": Never again

In Fast and Furious, ATF agents allegedly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the border and fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

Earlier, Holder also expressed regret at a misleading letter that the Justice Department sent Congress earlier this year which rejected allegations of serious problems of the Fast and Furious operation.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said the Dept. of Justice letter to Congress in Feb. denying gunwalking was "false."

"It's bad enough that the head of the (Dept. of Justice) Criminal Division (Lanny Breuer) admits the department's letter to me was false. It gets worse, thought. He admitted that he knew all along that it was false," said Grassley.

Prepared remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder

Then, Sen.Grassley asked Holder if Breuer has offered his resignation.

Attorney General Holder replied "no," Breuer has not offered his resignation and Holder doesn't expect him to. Holder said that the Feb. letter to Congress contained "inaccurate information" and "I regret that."

Murdered U.S. agent's family wants answers

But Holder says those who drafted the letter thought the information was accurate at the time.

Attorney General Holder says he didn't know of gunwalking, or the link between gunwalking and weapons found at the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry until he heard about it in the media in February.

"When I saw reports, I was bothered by it, offended by it, concerned by it, ordered the Inspector General to investigate and issued a directive" to the field to make sure all knew that gunwalking is "inappropriate,

inconsistent with Department of Justice policy and should not occur."

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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