House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa told Fox News Thursday that lives have been lost on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border a due to an operation known as “Operation Fast and Furious,” part of an anti-gun initiative known as “Project Gunrunner,” which allowed thousands of weapons to be purchased by “straw buyers” in Arizona and Texas that later were transported to drug smugglers in Mexico.
According to a letter Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley sent to Attorney General Eric Holder “the evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department (DOJ) not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons, but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities.”
Issa was asked what was the purpose of the operation.
“Well, it depends on whose perspective you are looking at. If you're Ken Melson, you’re at the ATF [federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives], you're told this is way to follow the guns, to roll up bigger fish,” Issa said.”However, if you are at Justice and you're able to see DEA and other agencies and know what they know, you already know the names of bigger fish and even have paid informants as middlemen. And that’s where we discovered it, in fact, was U.S. dollars that at least in some part was used to buy weapons.”
Fox News’ Bret Baier asked Issa whether ATF was actually tracking the guns across the border.
“With only two exceptions where they put tracking devices on them, was there any physical tracking beyond basically a few hours of following the first car, at most,” Issa said. “In one case, they did watch them go on a GPS device quite a ways into Mexico, but of course, they didn’t inform the Mexican officials, they didn’t have a team on the other side of the border to follow it. So at some point, the signal simply disappeared.”
Baier noted in the letter to Holder he said “the ATF has essentially been muzzled and that the DOJ sent over false denials and essentially buried its head in the sand.”
“In that interview over the weekend, and this is a quote you've just released from the transcript from Kenneth Melson, he says, quote, ‘You have the agents who were involved in the case who didn't have bad motives in doing this. They were trying to do what they thought was the right thing and guided by their supervisors.’
Baier asked Issa “Congressman, how high do you think this goes?”
“Well, it certainly goes to the highest levels of Justice,” Issa said. “When I say the highest levels of Justice, it's Lanny Breuer's area of Justice that has to authorize wiretaps and other activities. And, of course, controlling a task force that included DEA, FBI, element of the U.S. attorney office's, again, has to go to the top level of Justice.
“So we know it goes there, and that's eventually where we want answers because clearly ATF, although a participant, in some cases was very much kept in the dark,” Issa said.
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