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Editorial: Fast and Furious still a scar for Eric Holder

In this file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder

In this file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. (June 12, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

An internal Justice Department probe of the bungled Fast and Furious operation claimed two top scalps Wednesday, but the detailed report about the gun-running operation reveals deeper problems.

The 471-page report upholds some findings of an aggressive inquiry by the House of Representatives into the operation, while also supporting Attorney General Eric Holder's position that he did not know the details of the misguided tactics until 2011. That's two years after federal agents started selling more than 2,000 guns on the black market in Arizona with the intent of tracking them back to Mexican drug cartels. The failure of the operation was exposed after U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010 with two of those guns, AK-47 rifles, found near his body.

The report blamed a federal prosecutor in Arizona for misleading Washington about the origins of the AK-47s and criticized high-level supervisors for failed oversight.

It should also serve to discredit conspiracy theories that Fast and Furious was a plot by the Obama administration to kill law enforcement agents to create a groundswell of support for gun control.

Yet it also exposes serious management problems on Holder's watch. The attorney general testified that he shut down the operation once he learned that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had lost control of the guns. To have allowed it to continue would have been unconscionable. But Holder should have known sooner that something was terribly wrong.