The Justice Department has told Congress that weapons lost by a misguided Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms program called Operation Fast and Furious have turned up at the scenes of at least 11 violent crimes in the United States, as well as the site where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in Dec. 2010.
The Justice Department said a total of 1,418 firearms were circulated under the program, which was shut down after 14 months in January 2011. DOJ officials do not know how many guns are still missing.
This information was revealed in a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, the Los Angeles Times reports. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., are leading a Congressional probe into the gunwalker scandal. The Justice Department’s Inspector General is also investigating the matter.
According to the L.A. Times:
The program was intended to identify Mexican drug cartel leaders and smuggling routes across the border by allowing illegal purchases of firearms and tracking the weapons. Instead, many of the guns vanished.
In the Justice Department’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by the L.A. Times, the feds did not provide details about the crimes. However, an anonymous source told the newspaper that weapons had turned up at crime scenes in Phoenix, Nogales, Douglas and Glendale in Arizona, and in El Paso. The largest discovery was 40 weapons at one crime scene in El Paso.
On Wednesday, Grassley and Issa sent a letter back to the Justice Department, complaining that DOJ officials had not provided a full and complete response to their questions about the ATF program, CBS News reports.
News that three ATF supervisors involved in Operation Fast and Furious have been given jobs at ATF headquarters in Washington – one has been promoted -- led to a sharp statement from another member of the Congressional committee investigating the scandal on Wednesday.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told CNN: "Until Attorney General Holder and Justice Department officials come clean on all alleged gun-walking operations, including a detailed response to allegations of a Texas-based scheme, it is inconceivable to reward those who spearheaded this disastrous operation with cushy desks in Washington.”
President Obama has said that neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder knew about or approved of the controversial program, according to CBS News.