WASHINGTON - Criminals involved in the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry will be held accountable for the shooting, possibly as early as next month, according to testimony from US Attorney General Eric Holder.
"The people who were responsible for (the murder) will be held accountable, and I expect that you'll hear something about that relatively soon," Holder said.
Holder, who testified in front of the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday, defended the lengthy investigation after Rep. Patrick McHenry, (R-NC), questioned the amount of time it has taken to hold someone criminally accountable. McHenry called the "possibility" of somebody being punished for the crime after more than a year, "absurd".
"It's not absurd," said Holder. "It takes time to build a case that you are going to be able to take before a jury with a high standard of proof, convict somebody, hold them accountable". Holder said.
"I'm not putting any pressure on people in that regard other than to do it as quickly as we can but to do it as thoroughly as we can and so we bring the best possible case that we can," Holder said.
Holder answered dozens of questions about the flawed Fast and Furious case during the hearing on Capitol Hill.
It is the sixth time he has testified in front of a Congressional committee regarding the controversial ATF strategy that allowed hundreds of high-powered weapons onto the streets of Arizona, two of which are linked to the murder of Terry.
"In some of my comments today - if they sound familiar, it is because this is the sixth time that I've answered questions about this operation," Holder said of his multiple testimonies over the past year.
Republicans pressed for answers about the internal investigation within the Department of Justice, and whether any federal employees who developed the strategy in the Fast and Furious case would be held accountable or fired.
"To the extent that we find out who, precisely, was involved in this…I can assure you that unless there is some truly compelling circumstance," Holder said, "That person – those people will be removed from federal service."
CHANGES WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT
Holder referenced several reforms and changes he has already made within the Department of Justice to prevent future strategies, like the one implemented during the Fast and Furious case.
He pointed out the directive he issued, stating gun walking tactics used as a method to investigate gun trafficking are unacceptable. He also mentioned new policies and personnel changes within the Department of Justice, aimed at preventing another flawed case.
DEMOCRATS CALL FOR FORMER AG TO TESTIFY
Democrats said gun walking strategies had been used by the ATF several times prior to the Fast and Furious case, including during the Operation Wide Receiver case, during the George W. Bush Administration.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter asking for the committee to request testimony from former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who served during the Bush Administration.
"Attorney General Holder has now testified publicly six times about these issues. It is only appropriate for the Committee and the public to hear testimony from Mr. Mukasey at least once," Cummings wrote in a letter to Committee chairman Darrell Issa.
Republicans, meanwhile, pressed for information about subpoenaed records they have not yet received from the Department of Justice. They even threatened to consider Holder in Contempt of Congress if he does not comply with a February 9, 2012 deadline.
"Why don't you give us those documents?" asked Dan Burton, (R-IN). "The conclusion that I come to is- there's some things in there that's being hidden that you don't want us to see," he said.
"I don't know if it involves you or some other ATF agents or some other members of the Justice Department, but this committee is the oversight committee and we have every right under the Constitution to check on what you're doing," he said.
Holder emphasized the number of records that have already been supplied to the Congressional investigators.
"The redactions that have occurred are only because there are things that are things that are either not relevant or are protected by grand jury secrecy rules, court orders that have sealed materials," Holder said.