"Such irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms," Holder said. "Those who serve in the ranks of law enforcement are our Nation's heroes and deserve our Nation's thanks, not the disrespect that is being heaped on them by those who seek political advantage. I trust you feel similarly and I call on you to denounce these statements."
Holder wrote that he had "not spoken at length on this subject out of deference to the review being conducted, at my request, by our Department's Inspector General." But he said that in the past few days "the public discourse concerning these issues has become so base and so harmful to interests that I hope we all share that I must now address these issues notwithstanding the Inspector General's ongoing review."
Attorney General Holder said that his testimony "was truthful and accurate" and said he had "no recollection of knowing about Fast and Furious or of hearing its name prior to the public controversy about it."
"Prior to early 2011, I certainly never knew about the tactics employed in the operation and it is my understanding that the former United States Attorney for the District of Arizona and the former Acting Director and Deputy Director of ATF have told Congress that they, themselves, were unaware of the tactics employed," Holder wrote.
"As I have said, the fact that even a single gun was not interdicted in this operation and found its way to Mexico is unacceptable," Holder said.
Holder, who has gotten in trouble in the past for his statements about guns, continued:
Equally unacceptable, however, is the fact that too many in Congress are opposed to any discussion of fixing loopholes in our laws that facilitate the staggering flow of guns each year across our border to the south. I cannot help but note that at the same time that some members of Congress understandably criticize the Fast and Furious operation, they vehemently refuse to consider whether ATF has the resources and legal tools it needs to do its job -- tools that would be entirely consistent with the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
"Until we move beyond the current political climate -- where real solutions take a back seat to both political posturing and making headlines on cable news programs and is deemed more important than actually solving our country's difficult challenges -- nothing is going to change," Holder said. "I hope we can engage in a more responsible dialogue on this subject in the future. There is much we all need to do together to stop gun violence on both sides of the border and make our Nation safer."
Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said that Holder's statement might be more believable if he "said these things five months ago when Congress asked him about Operation Fast and Furious."
"At this point, however, it's hard to take at face value a defense that is factually questionable, entirely self-serving, and a still incomplete account of what senior Justice Department officials knew about gun walking," Hill said.
Read the full letter here.