Mexican attorney general demands explanation on Operation Fast and Furious

Tom Ramstack – AHN News Legal Correspondent

Washington, DC, United States (AHN) – Mexico’s attorney general is demanding an explanation from the United States as evidence grows the Obama administration was more deeply involved in Operation Fast and Furious than top officials admitted in previous statements.

Operation Fast and Furious was a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives effort to track more than 2,000 smuggled guns to Mexican drug cartels by allowing gang members to purchase them illegally from U.S. gun stores then take them back to their leaders.

However, the federal agency lost track of many of the guns. Some later were traced to murders of police and civilians in Mexico.

Officially, the Justice Department says the operation backfired but did not admit U.S. agents sold the guns to the Mexican smugglers.

In June, President Barack Obama said he would take “appropriate action” against organizers of the operation. He said it never was approved by top Justice Department officials.

Investigative news stories this week cast doubt on reports of no high-level government involvement.

Documents obtained from Fox News show ATF agents sold some of the guns to gang members. They allegedly purchased the guns with taxpayer money.

Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales called Operation Fast and Furious “an attack on Mexicans’ security.”

She said she learned about the operation in the news media rather than being told about it in advance by U.S. government officials.

She said that if U.S. federal officials were involved, it would be a “betrayal” of Mexico while its police and military were fighting a war against drug cartels. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the war that started in December 2006.

Morales said she would await results of congressional investigations into the operation before making any conclusions over who should be blamed.

The House Oversight Committee is investigating claims the ATF was joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency in allowing the guns to be smuggled into Mexico.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the committee’s chairman, said the trail of evidence about who authorized Operation Fast and Furious leads back to the White House.

The Fox News report added fuel to the claims.

Operation Fast and Furious began in October 2009 with sales from American gun stores to the gang members. They eventually spent $1.25 million on the guns.

In June 2010, ATF picked up the pace of the smuggling by allowing its agents to sell the guns to gang members, according to government documents.

ATF Agent John Dodson was ordered to buy six semi-automatic Draco pistols then sell them to buyers he knew were illegal, the documents say. Other agents watched from nearby cars.

Dodson says he acted on his own, against supervisors’ instructions, to monitor the movement of the guns to a “stash house.” He kept the house under surveillance until a vehicle showed up to pick up the guns for smuggling into Mexico.

Dodson says he called for a team to move in to arrest the smugglers, but his supervisors refused. The guns then disappeared from ATF surveillance.

Dodson reportedly argued loudly with his supervisors in their Phoenix office, which prompted them to transfer him to a menial job.

Months later, one Operation Fast and Furious gun was found at the site where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed.

Dodson then became a whistleblower against Operation Fast and Furious.

The report this week that ATF agents sold the guns to smugglers follows another news story this month that says three high-level Obama administration officials knew about Operation Fast and Furious while it was occurring.

The story was based on e-mails obtained by The Los Angeles Times.

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