Holder: 'Gunwalking' is wrong

Attorney General Eric Holder speaking.
Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, DC, March 10, 2011.

That came in response to a CBS News investigation into allegations that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms intentionally allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons into the hands of Mexico's drug cartels for the purpose of gathering intelligence.

Gunrunning scandal at the ATF

Prior to this week, the position of the Justice Department was that ATF has never knowingly allowed guns to get into the hands of suspected gunrunners. However, Attorney General Eric Holder no longer appears to be denying the allegations, which have been made by a dozen veteran ATF agents.

Agent: I was ordered to let U.S. guns into Mexico

At a hearing today, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison asked Holder to comment on the case. Holder emphasized "The mission of ATF.. is to stop the flow of guns. That is the focus of ATF and why they are bravely working in Mexico and in this country."

Holder went on to say for the first time that letting guns "walk" into the hands of criminals for any reason is wrong. Holder says he's "made it clear to people in the (Justice) Department that letting guns 'walk,' I guess that's the term people use, is not something that is acceptable. We cannot have a situation where guns are allowed to walk, and I've made that clear to the US Attorney as well as the agents in charge of various ATF offices."

Documents obtained by CBS News show that the Phoenix U.S. Attorney's office under the Justice Department supervised ATF's Fast and Furious operation.

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