President Obama on Project Gunrunner: A ‘Serious Mistake’ May Have Been Made

March 24, 2011 5:40 a.m.

In his first public comments addressing Project Gunrunner — a national initiative by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to combat illegal gun trafficking along the Mexico border now taking heat for allegedly letting guns end up in the hands of criminals — President Barack Obama conceded that “a serious mistake” may have been made.

During an interview with a reporter from Univision that aired Tuesday night, Obama said he was “absolutely not” informed about the ATF program. The agency came under fire after a senior ATF agent told media outlets that supervisors ordered agents not to intercept weapons made in suspicious sales — but instead to monitor them to see where the weapons ended up.The whistleblower alleges that the agency intentionally let more than 1,700 guns be illegally trafficked to Mexico.

“I did not authorize it; Eric Holder, the attorney general, did not authorize it. He’s been very clear that our policy is to catch gun-runners and put them into jail,” Obama said.

Clarity about what exactly took place during Project Gunrunner may come soon: Holder has asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has also launched his own probe. He told a radio show that he has four investigators working full-time to try and understand why guns were allowed to “walk” over the border without any safeguards in place.

Obama said that he would hold someone responsible if, indeed, a mistake was made.

“We have to make sure that we’re enforcing the kinds of measures that will stop the flow of guns and cash down south that is helping to fuel these transnational drug cartels,” he said.

“There may be a situation here in which a serious mistake was made,” he said. “If that’s the case, then we’ll find out and we”ll hold someone accountable.”

Current relations between Mexico and the U.S. are strained: The U.S. ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned Saturday after diplomatic cables were released by WikiLeaks showing Pascual criticizing Mexican authorities.

Watch the interview with Obama below:

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