US Justice Department covered ATF Operation Fast and Furious botched gun sales
Members of Congress investigating the ATF’s botched gun-tracking operation say it now appears that the Justice Department “obstructed” their attempts to find out what happened. They also expressed deep concern about the possibility that the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency already knew about — and may even have been working with — the people who were smuggling weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
The new information comes from Kenneth Melson, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who voluntarily testified before congressional investigators on the July 4 holiday.
Melson made two key assertions to investigators:
Contrary to denials by the Justice Department, Melson acknowledged that ATF agents had in fact witnessed transfers of weapons from straw purchasers to third parties without following the guns any further.
The ATF agents carrying out Operation Fast and Furious had been placed under the direction of the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office.
Congressmen Issa and Grassley said they learned from several sources that some of the gun trafficking “higher-ups” — whom ATF was trying to identify through Operation Fast and Furious — “were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants.”
Issa and Grassley continued: “The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities.”
“Nearly a decade after the September 11th attacks, the stovepipes of information within our government may still be causing tragic mistakes long after they should have been broken down,” Issa and Grassley concluded.