Senator Chuck Grassley says new questions must be answered about whether top officials in other key agencies knew more about “Operation Fast and Furious” than they’ve admitted. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is under fire for a gun-tracing program that went haywire, with weapons sold in the U.S. winding up in the hands of Mexican drug runners.
“Every day we seem to get more information that demands yet more documents or more interviews,” Grassley says. The goal of “Operation Fast and Furious” was to monitor U.S. sales of assault weapons and have A.T.F. agents trace the guns to suspects in Mexican drug cartels, but agents lost track of many of the weapons — and two of the guns were used to kill a border patrol agents.
Grassley says a July 4th interview with the acting director of the A.T.F. “substantiated the rumors” that officials in the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Agency were involved in the operation. “Secondly, this was administered by the US Attorney in Phoenix,” Grassley says. “…You wonder how high up in the Justice Department it went and so that’s really the bottom line of what we’re trying to find out. Who made the decision? How high up was it?”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified in May that he first heard about “Operation Fast and Furious” this spring, after the problems surfaced. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is part of the Justice Department. As many as 17-hundred weapons being tracked by the A.T.F. under what some call “Operation Gunrunner” have been lost in Mexico.
Some of the weapons have been used in murders on both sides of the border. Senator Grassley says “in the past couple of weeks” the Justice Department has been more forthcoming in answering congressional requests for information about the operation.
However, Grassley says the July 4th testimony from the director of the A.T.F. suggests the Justice Department may have given “false information” to congress earlier this year.