More details about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) “Fast and Furious” operation have been revealed, indicating that the White House had a heavier involvement than previously known and that a government attempt to cover up fatal consequences’ of ATF actions occurred.
Under the program, more than 2,000 assault rifles and illegal firearms were handed directly to Mexican drug cartels in an effort to “track illegal gun-trafficking operations.” The secretive operation was revealed when U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was slain by a gun provided to cartel operatives by the ATF. Per Department of Homeland Security policy to fire non-lethal rounds at criminals entering the country illegally or threatening Border Patrol, Terry was armed with a weapon that fired bean bags when he was murdered, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
According to Fox News, information revealed after the reassignment of former ATF employees shows that Federal officials on various levels tried to cover up details of Terry’s murder. The news agency reported that the examination ATF internal calls, emails and hand-written documents has provided damning evidence against Assistant U.S. Attorneys Emory Hurley and Michael Morrissey, along with Patrick Cunningham, chief of the office’s Criminal Division. In an email exchange the day after the murder between Hurley and then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, they decided not to disclose the connection between Terry’s slaying and the ATF’s gun sales to the Mexican cartels, because “… this way we do not divulge our current case (Fast and Furious) or the Border Patrol shooting case.”
Allegedly, after complications arose, some of the most basic law enforcement techniques typically used to take illegal weapons from criminals required the explicit approval of high-level ATF officials, as not to divulge the details of Fast and Furious or provide a link between it and Terry’s murder by retrieving ATF provided weapons.
The L.A. Times reports that senior White House officials were privy to at least some of the goings on under the Fast and Furious operation, naming three officials: Kevin M. O’Reilly, director of North American Affairs for the White House national security staff; Dan Restrepo, the President’s senior Latin American adviser; and Greg Gatjanis, a White House national security official.
The paper also said the Justice Department has changed its tune as to how many crimes were committed in the U.S. using ATF-sold firearms; it recently stated 11 incidents had occurred, but now says it is only aware of one violent crime linked to the guns. However, some investigators have said that the weapons were discovered at more than 20 violent crime sites in Mexico and several in the U.S.