The House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over more Justice Department documents on a flawed gun-smuggling probe. Attorney General Holder first denied and then acknowledge that ‘Fast and Furious’ let guns cross the border.
On the night of December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and others were patrolling Peck Canyon, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, 11 miles from the Mexican border. The agents discovered five suspected illegal immigrants. During and attempt at investigation, a conflict occurred, and agents fired non-lethal beanbag guns. The illegal immigrants responded with lethal gunfire, and agent Brian Terry was shot and killed.
Four suspects were arrested and two AK-pattern rifles were found nearby. The rifles were traced to Fast and Furious within hours of the shooting.
What Is ‘Fast and Furious?’
Starting during the Bush Administration, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran a series of “gunwalking” sting operations between 2006 and 2011. Project Gunrunner, was a project intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico by interdicting straw purchasers on behalf of drug cartels and gun traffickers within the United States. “Gunwalking” or “letting guns walk” was a tactic whereby the ATF knowingly allowed thousands of guns to be bought by suspected arms traffickers (“gunrunners”).
Operation Wide Receiver, began in early 2006 and continued into late 2007. Licensed dealer Mike Detty informed the ATF of a suspicious gun purchase by a 20-year-old male that took place in February 2006 in Tucson, Arizona. In March he was hired as a confidential informant (CI) working with the ATF’s Tucson office, part of their Phoenix, Arizona field division.
Detty, the proprietor of Mad Dawg Global Marketing in Tucson, Ariz., and a federally licensed firearm dealer, sold a total of about 450 guns, including AR-15s, semi-automatic knockoff AK-47s rifles, and Colt .38s. Although the ATF assured Mexican officials would be conducting surveillance and interdictions when guns arrived on the Mexican side of the border, the vast majority of the guns were eventually lost in Mexico. Detty now accuses the ATF of misleading him.
Under President Barack Obama the DOJ reviewed Wide Receiver in September 2009 and found that guns had been allowed into the hands of suspected gun traffickers.
On October 26, 2009, ‘Fast and Furious’ was born during a teleconference that was held at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. Participating in the meeting were Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, ATF Director Kenneth E. Melson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michele Leonhart, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Robert Mueller and the top federal prosecutors in the Southwestern border states were working to discuss U.S. strategy for combating Mexican drug cartels. It is not confirmed whether ‘gunwalking’ was discussed, but ATF implemented the tactic to achieve the objectives. Operation Fast and Furious was named after the Fast and Furious street racing film series because high target suspects in the investigation operated out of an auto repair store and street raced.
Bill Newell, ATF special agent in charge Phoenix field division “Gropu VII” decided to use “gunwalking” as laid out in a January 2010 briefing paper, which approved under ATF regulations, legally backed by U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis K. Burke, and was approved and funded by a Justice Department task force.
By June 2010, suspects had purchased 1,608 firearms at a cost of over $1 million at Phoenix-area gun shops. The ATF also was aware that 179 of those weapons were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, and that 130 of the weapons were recovered in the United States. ATF agents began to object to operation as the guns piled up at crime scenes. ATF’s group supervisor on Fast and Furious David Voth assured the gun dealers, who were also increasingly wary of gunwalking, there was nothing to worry about, “We (ATF) are continually monitoring these suspects using a variety of investigative techniques which I cannot go into detail.” Voth and another ATF supervisor Hope MacAllister prevented ATF agents from intervening when they witnesses guns being bought illegally — ‘gunwalking’ on a daily basis.
The rifles that were used in the firefight that killed Brian Terry were traced to Fast and Furious within hours of his death.
U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R–CA–49), has estimated that more than 200 Mexicans were killed by guns linked to the operation. Congress has asked for 70,000 documents from the Department of Justice and have only received 1,300 documents. Some of the documents showed a ridiculous amount of blacked out sections.
“Mr. Attorney General you’re not a good witness,” U.S. Representative Darrell Issa and Attorney General Eric Holder square off over Fast and Furious gunwalking operation.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 8, Holder denied covering up anything but condemned tactics used by his department’s gun-trafficking investigators. “I want to be clear,” the Attorney General said. “Any instance of so-called gun walking is unacceptable.” Fast and Furious, he added, “was flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution.”
President Obama is asserting executive privilege for the first time, but a House panel has still voted to cite AG Eric Holder for contempt of Congress over its demand for documents on the bungled “Fast and Furious” Mexican gun-running sting.
While some are asking, “What are they hiding?” others believe the ATF and the Justice Department we ramping up the gun sales to argue for controversial new rules regarding gun sales. On July 12, 2011, Sen. Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote Attorney General Eric Holder whether officials in his agency discussed how “Fast and Furious could be used to justify additional regulatory authorities.” No response from Attorney General Eric Holder. The Justice Department oversees the ATF.
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See also …
CBSNEWS Documents: ATF used “Fast and Furious” to make the case for gun regulations.