Fortune Magazine’s Katherine Eban has a big report out this morning arguing the the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) had nothing to do with letting guns into Mexico.
While the guns were definitely part of Operation Fast & Furious, a program run by ATF agents in Phoenix, Eban argues that “gunwalking” — the tactic of allowing guns to be trafficked, in order to track cartel networks — was never part of the ATF’s mission.
She writes that agents were actually trying to intercept the guns, by tracking and arresting people hired by the cartels to purchase the guns in the U.S., but found themselves stymied by federal attorneys who said many of the “straw purchases” were not prosecutable.
The ATF, which is overseen by Attorney General Eric Holder, has admitted it did not exercise “proper oversight” over the program, and has reassigned almost everyone associated with the operation.
Toward the end of the piece, Eban notes that new facts are still coming to light about Operation Fast and Furious, indicating that other agencies within the Department of Justice — including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency — were involved in the program, and were tracking the guns through the cartel networks via paid informants, without the knowledge of the ATF agents on the ground.
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