Hoping to score a major prosecution of Mexican drug lords, federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives permitted hundreds of guns to be purchased and retained by suspected straw buyers with the expectation they might cross the border and even be used in crimes while the case was being built, according to documents and interviews.
The decision — part of a Phoenix-based operation code named “Fast and Furious” — was met by strong objections from some front-line agents who feared they were allowing weapons like AK-47s to “walk” into the hands of drug lords and gun runners, internal agency memos show. Indeed, scores of the weapons came back quickly traced to criminal activity.
One of those front-line agents who objected, John Dodson, 39, told the Center for Public Integrity that these guns “are going to be turning up in crimes on both sides of the border for decades.” Dodson said in an interview that “with the number of guns we let walk, we’ll never know how many people were killed, raped, robbed … there is nothing we can do to round up those guns. They are gone.”
Dodson has taken his misgivings to the Senate Judiciary Committee as a whistleblower after his concerns were dismissed by his supervisors and initially ignored by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Sen. Charles Grassley, the panel’s top Republican — who is spearheading a probe of ATF’s actions – said “it’s time to step back” and examine the policy. Two of the guns involved in the sting operation turned up at the scene of a fatal shooting of a U.S. agent.
The Justice Department said today that Attorney General Eric Holder has asked the department’s acting inspector general to evaluate the concerns about ATF’s investigative tactics.
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