How Mexican killers got US guns from 'Fast and Furious' operation
US officials thought they would catch Mexican criminals in a bold gun-running sting called 'Fast and Furious.' Instead, they inadvertently armed drug cartels as the operation spiraled out of control, a congressional report finds.
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Those within ATF who raised concerns about the fundamental flaw in the strategy were rebuffed or simply kept in the dark, Daniel Kumor, the ATF's international affairs chief, told congressional investigators.Skip to next paragraph
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At least one witness cited in the report contended knowledge of the tactics in Fast and Furious was widespread in ATF and Justice: "It was common knowledge that they were going down there to be crime guns."
The report names main Justice Department trial attorney Joe Cooley as saying the movement of vast numbers of guns to Mexico was "an acceptable practice." Mr. Cooley was Breuer's main contact with Fast and Furious, according to the report.
The Justice Department has maintained that it never knowingly allowed guns to "walk" to Mexico.
In the report, at least one higher-up fought back against accusations that field officers and ATF attachés in Mexico were raising concerns about the program. Asked if his reports raised concerns about the operation, Bill McMahon, deputy field operations director for ATF, told Congress: "Not that I can remember."
So far, nobody at the Justice Department has publicly acknowledged a role in the case, and President Obama has said neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder knew anything about it until the story broke after the murder of Brian Terry in a Sonora, Ariz., gun battle in December 2010. President Obama has ordered the Justice Department inspector general to investigate.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department fought back against the report's characterizations of Breuer's involvement.
"The Committee’s report promotes unsubstantiated theories by selectively releasing excerpts of transcripts while ignoring testimony and other information," writes spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler in an e-mail. "For whatever reason, the leadership of the Committee chose not to release witness testimony that makes clear that operational details relating to this investigation were unknown to senior Department of Justice officials."
In previous testimony, Acting Director Melson, said the strategy was not "intended to allow the guns to go to suspected straw purchasers without any good faith belief that you could recover those weapons."
But he also suggested that the field agents had wide latitude. The agents, not the supervisors, "do the tactical stuff," Melson said. ATF Acting Deputy Director William Hoover added in his testimony that there was no reason for Justice officials to be aware of the tactics, "because I certainly didn't brief them on the techniques being employed in Fast and Furious."
The fallout from the operation has taken its toll on lives and diplomatic relations, say congressional investigators.
In October, 2010, cartel members kidnapped Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, the brother of Chihuahua Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez Rodriguez. A few days later, police found Mr. Rodriguez's body in a shallow grave. Shortly thereafter, police engaged cartel members in a gun fight, from which several guns were recovered. Two were traced to Operation Fast and Furious.
When Mr. Canino confronted other ATF officials about the need to inform the Mexican government about the link, he says he got "zero instructions," and that "every time I mentioned it, guys started looking at their cellphones, silence in the room."
Eight months after the murder, Canino finally told Mexican Attorney General Maricela Morales about the link. "Hijole" (oh my), she said.
IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war