The fallout from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ fatally-flawed gun-running program known as Operation Fast and Furious continues to mount, as three more firearms linked to the scandal were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico.
CBS News journalist Sharyl Attkisson reported on Wednesday that “all three guns are WASR-10 762-caliber Romanian rifles. Two were purchased by Fast and Furious suspect Uriel Patino in May and July of 2010. Sean Steward, who was convicted on gun charges in July 2012, purchased a third. The rifles were traced yesterday to the Lone Wolf gun shop in Glendale, Arizona.”
Under the auspices of the Department of Justice and the ATF, federal agents instructed law-abiding and responsible gun dealers to sell weapons to suspected straw purchasers who had ties to known Mexican drug cartels. The goal of the operation was to trace these firearms back to cartel leaders so that law enforcement, on both sides of the border, could make one big raid.
Of course, that never happened. In part, because Mexican officials were largely in the dark about the operation. But also because DOJ and ATF leadership proved to be grossly incompetent. As congressional investigators noted in a Joint Staff Report that extensively examined the operation:
“Though many senior Department officials were keenly aware of Fast and Furious, no one questioned the operation,” the report said. “No one ordered that Fast and Furious be shut down. Instead, senior Department officials let it continue to grow.”
Consequently, approximately 2,000 firearms crossed the U.S.-Meixco border undeterred. Approximately 1,400 of those firearms are still unaccounted for.
As one might imagine, the results of Fast and Furious have been deadly. As CBS News noted:
Last November, a Fast and Furious weapon was found at a shootout between a Mexican drug cartel and soldiers where a beauty queen was killed. Two weapons used in the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico on Feb. 15, 2011 also came from suspects who were under ATF watch but not arrested at the time. And two Fast and Furious AK-47 type rifles were recovered from the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010; he’d been shot by illegal immigrants who were smuggling drugs.
While there have been a number of congressional investigations looking into Operation Fast and Furious, many believe that the whole truth about who knew what and when they knew it remains hidden.
In particular, Attorney General Eric Holder’s knowledge of the operation is still a contentious issue in Washington. Last summer, Holder was given a contempt of Congress citation for stonewalling investigators and failing to turn over critical documents related to the operation.
However, President Obama invoked executive privilege to put a block on the request. This, in turn, prompted the Republican-majority House Oversight Committee to file a lawsuit demanding those docs be released.