By Jordy Yager - 07/26/11 02:19 PM EDT
More than 100 weapons linked to crime scenes were sold under a federal gun-tracking program, according to a new congressional report.
The report from two Republican lawmakers says the program was allowed to continue despite pleas from U.S. agents stationed in Mexico to stop arming the country’s drug cartels.
Issued by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday, the report found that Mexican law enforcement officials and U.S. attaché agents stationed in Mexico were kept largely in the dark about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.
As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa will hear testimony on Tuesday from a half-dozen former and current ATF agents, including ATF attachés to Mexico and the ATF’s regional deputy assistant director for field operations.
Earlier this month, ATF acting director Kenneth Melson told the committee in a closed-door interview that neither he nor acting-deputy director Billy Hoover knew about the operation ahead of its public revelation earlier this year, according to a partial transcript of the meeting provided to The Hill by committee Democrats.
The Fast and Furious operation authorized gun dealers in the Southwest to sell more than 1,000 weapons to known and suspected straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels, with the stated hope of tracking the weapons to the eventual kingpins and dismantling the gun trafficking routes. But the federal officials in charge of the operation did not authorize enough surveillance of the weapons and offered no reliable method of tracing them other than if they were later recovered at a crime scene, according to ATF testimony before the committee last month.
Grassley and Issa have pursued the issue for seven months, ever since a whistleblower came to the senior Iowa lawmaker following the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Two of the guns found at the scene of Terry’s killing were later traced to sales made under the operation’s authorization.
The lawmakers want to find out who gave the ultimate authorization for the operation. Both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have decried the program. Holder called for the inspector general to investigate the issue, and Obama has declined to comment on the issue until that probe is complete.