Ahead of another House Oversight Committee hearing on ATF’s “Fast and Furious” controversy on Tuesday, the Republican and Democratic staffs of the House Oversight Committee have issued dueling reports on the latest information uncovered by congressional investigators.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Justice Department officials didn’t properly inform ATF employees stationed in Mexico about the technique of letting suspected straw purchasers put guns into the supply line so they could determine how the guns ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, according to the Republican report.
“ATF and DOJ leadership’s reluctance to share information may have only prolonged the flow of weapons from this straw purchasing ring into Mexico,” the report states. Airing tensions between line agents and mid-level ATF officials over gun “walking” technique, the report finds that while agents were told the “Fast and Furious” program would be shut down as early as March 2010, it took the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry to actually bring the program to an end.
Democrats, in a memo ahead of the hearing, said that “no ATF officials interviewed by Committee staff stated that the senior management of ATF or the Department of Justice devised or directed the controversial tactics alleged in Operation Fast and Furious.”
Acting ATF Director Melson told the committee that he “assigned a task force of agents to read through all the [reports of investigation] to determine whether or not the allegations that were being made by individuals in CBS and Senator Grassley were true or not, because frankly we didn’t think they were true.”
After reviewing one of the reports on a particular suspect, Melson told the committee that he did not know if there was probable cause to arrest the suspect in question.
ATF recently told gun dealers in four border states to report multiple sales of so-called long guns, an effort aimed at combating trafficking.
If you need to catch up on the Fast and Furious scandal, the Washington Post has a rundown of the entire controversy.