(CNSNews.com) - Yes, "Operation Fast and Furious" was "flawed"; No, it "should never have happened," Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
But aside from the mistakes that were made -- and the "irresponsible accusations" surrounding the gun-tracking probe -- and the fact that "we will feel the effects for years to come" -- Holder insisted that the botched ATF operation was simply a "reaction" to a "longstanding problem" that must be addressed.
"The mistakes of Operation Fast and Furious, serious though they were, should not deter or distract us from our critical mission to disrupt the dangerous flow of firearms across our Southwest border," Holder told the Committee in his opening statement.
"Like each of you, I want to know why and how firearms that should have been under surveillance could wind up in the hands of the Mexican drug cartels. But beyond identifying where errors occurred and ensuring that they never occur again, we must be careful not to lose sight of the critical problem that this flawed investigation has highlighted.
"We are losing the battle to stop the flow of illegal guns to Mexico. This means, I believe, that we have a responsibility to act." Holder then urged Congress to give the ATF more power -- "the resources and statutory tools it needs to be effective," he said.
"As someone who has seen the consequences of gun violence firsthand...I am determined to ensure that our shared concerns about Operation Fast & Furious lead to more than headline-grabbing Washington gotcha-games and cynical point-scoring."
Holder again urged the Senate not to lose sight of "what's really at stake here."
"When it come to protecting our fellow citizens and stopping illegal gun trafficking across the Southwest Border, I hope that we can engage in a responsible dialogue and work toward common solutions."
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee chair, responded, "I agree with you, that if we are going to stop that flow of guns into Mexico...we're going to have to take some steps here in this country."
As CNSNews.com previously reported, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in July that he suspected a political motivation behind "Fast and Furious."
“My suspicion is they (the Obama administration) don’t like the Second Amendment the way it is, and they are going to do everything to hurt guns and restrict guns. So they could have been building a case for that. But I can’t prove that.”