Firearms from ATF sting linked to 11 more violent crimes
Firearms from the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious weapons trafficking investigation turned up at the scenes of at least 11 violent crimes in the U.S., as well as at a Border Patrol agent’s slaying in southern Arizona last year, the Justice Department has acknowledged to Congress.
The department did not provide details about the crimes. But The Times has learned that they occurred in several Arizona cities, including Phoenix, where Fast and Furious was managed, as well as in El Paso, where a total of 42 weapons from the operation were seized at two crime scenes.
The new numbers, which expand the scope of the danger the program posed to U.S. citizens over a 14-month period, are contained in a letter that Justice Department officials turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.
In the letter, obtained by The Times on Tuesday, Justice Department officials also reported that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials advised them that the agency’s acting director, Kenneth E. Melson, “likely became aware” of the operation as early as December 2009, a month after it began.
Melson has said he did not learn about how the operation was run until January of this year, when it was canceled.
To recap, Gunwalker was an operation to permit firearms to be purchased in the US and “walked” over the border to Mexico, where theoretically they could be traced to the cartel kingpins, who would then be arrested and charged. The guns were bought by “straw buyers,” people who would buy the guns not for themselves, but for cartel criminals who normally would be prevented from buying them. Even though the straw-buyers were known, or when there was a suspicious firearms order, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms would tell the gun dealer to let the purchase go through.
Now those guns have been involved in one, perhaps two deaths of US federal agents. They have been “in action” in the deaths of over 150 Mexican soldiers, federal agents, and civilians. US federal agents working in Mexico and the Mexican authorities were lied to about the extent of the operation. The guns are showing up more and more at American crime scenes.
And the US Justice Department is throwing roadblock after roadblock in the way of what may well be the biggest federal scandal in decades.
Right now, Gunwalker is overshadowed by the US debt crisis and the politics of the upcoming election. But it won’t stay that way. Some time in the next year, whether through dogged investigation by Rep. Issa’s House Oversight Committee or, God forbid, some major crime the media can’t ignore, the guns of Operation Fast and Furious are going to come back to haunt the Obama administration.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)