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"Fast and Furious" a "Catastrophic Disaster"

Border agents criticize weapons program

Washington, DC
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As a follow up to Monday’s hearing on a government program intended to track weapons and Mexican drug cartels, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee continued its inquiry today.

The Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) program “Operation Fast and Furious" allowed gun stores near the Mexican border to sell semiautomatic weapons in bulk to "straw purchasers" and then track their journey. Many of the guns were linked to crimes, including the killing of a Border Patrol agent.

Chair of the Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA),released three emails by ATF officials discussing the program. The committee is investigating who at ATF and the Department of Justice knew and authorized the program.

Rep. Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released a report on “Operation Fast and Furious," which says border patrol and ATF agents were told to "surveil" weapons and not interdict. It also said agents warned of devastating consequences, including criminal activity, but supervisors ignored their warnings.

At a House hearing on the program Wednesday, ATF Agent John Dodson said, "Every time we questioned that order, there was punitive action."

Dodson told Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) the ATF stopped tracking the weapons once they traveled too far from the border. He said the ATF lost track of 1500 - 1800 weapons.

Issa said the administration ignored committee requests for documents on “Operation Fast and Furious."  Issa issued a subpoena on March 31, 2011 to the acting Director of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE) Agency Kenneth Melson to determine what he knew and if he signed off on the program.

At Monday’s hearing, the committee examined whether the administration needs to respond to the subpoena. Issa said the Department of Justice is refusing to provide the committee with information; he threatened a “slew” of subpoenas.

According to Issa, today’s hearing will examine the “reckless decisions” and “tragic outcome” of  “Fast and Furious.”  The committee is calling a new set of witnesses, including the family of a slain border security agent, ATFE agents and Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich.

Updated: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 4:09pm (ET)

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