At least 122 firearms from a doomed U.S. gun smuggling sting have been found at Mexican crime scenes or intercepted en route to Mexico’s drug gangs, according to a new Republican congressional report released today.Two of those guns were found at the murder scene of a U.S. border patrol agent along the Mexican border in Arizona last December.
The weapons were part of Operation Fast and Furious, a highly controversial program in which U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents in Phoenix allowed firearms purchased in the U.S. to “walk” across the border and into the hands of Mexico’s powerful drug bosses.
The report, compiled by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), finds that ATF agents in Mexico warned their Phoenix counterparts that they an alarming number of weapons found at cartel crime scenes were being traced back to Arizona. But the U.S. agents in Mexico — and the Mexican government — were kept in the dark about the gunrunning program.
“I wasn’t convinced that this happened until this past April after all the allegations were made, and I talked to different people,” the ATF’s acting attache in Mexico City told Congressional investigators. “I was beyond shocked. Embarrassed. I was angry. I’m still angry. Because this is not what we do….I mean, this is the perfect storm of idiocy.”
In a series of Congressional hearings, including one this morning, ATF agents and federal prosecutors said the goal of the operation was to identify the cartel networks that were smuggling guns from the U.S. But ATF agents lost track of nearly half of the 2,000 guns that they allowed to cross the border, according to the agency’s data.
The report concludes:
“Given the vast amount of Operation Fast and Furious weapons possibly still in the hands of cartel members, law enforcement officials should expect more seizures and recoveries at crime scenes. According to several agents involved in Operation Fast and Furious, ATF agents will have to deal with these guns for years to come.”