The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced they will end a six-year legal battle with lawmakers and provide documents withheld in the Obama-era gun-walking scandal.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the conditional settlement between DOJ and the Republican-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to turn over additional documents long ago subpoenaed in connection to a failed sting operation that “let guns walk” from licensed dealers across the border to Mexico.
Dubbed Operation Fast and Furious by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the program allowed known gun traffickers and straw buyers in the Southwest to purchase as many as 2,000 guns between 2009 and 2011 with the intention of tracing them the end-users in the criminal underworld. In most cases, however, the guns went on simply arm those involved in Mexico’s ongoing narco wars leaving at least one federal law enforcement officer and as many as 200 Mexican nationals dead with weapons shipped during the operation.
The resulting Congressional investigation into the “gunwalking” operations, once they became known in 2011, ended the program. While the Obama Administration and DOJ’s own Inspector General’s office ultimately complied with parts of the probe, refusal by then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012 to turn over some documents resulted in Congress finding him in criminal contempt– the first time a sitting member of the Cabinet had been so charged.
Sessions was clear there is a different outlook in the current administration. “The Department of Justice under my watch is committed to transparency and the rule of law,” he said. “This settlement agreement is an important step to make sure that the public finally receives all the facts related to Operation Fast and Furious.”
Most of the guns that made it into the Mexican underground were never recovered and continue to appear at crime scenes in the country. In 2016, when elite military units of the Mexican Navy stormed the compound of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, at least one .50-caliber rifle recovered was believed tied to the program.