Wednesday, June 15, 2011

House Panel Slams Fast and Furious Gun Operation Tied to Border Agents Death

A U.S. law enforcement operation intended to crack down on major weapons traffickers on the Southwest border spiraled out of control as federal agents were told by superiors to "stand down" and ignore weapons bought in Arizona headed for Mexico, a House panel heard Wednesday.

Three federal firearms investigators told the House Oversight and Government Reform committee that they wanted to "intervene and interdict" loads of guns, but were repeatedly ordered to step aside.

"Allowing loads of weapons that we knew to be destined for criminals -- this was the plan," John Dodson, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, testified to the panel. "It was so mandated."

He added: "My supervisors directed me and my colleagues not to make any stop or arrest, but rather, to keep the straw purchaser under surveillance while allowing the guns to walk."

ATF agent Olindo James Casa said that "on several occasions I personally requested to interdict or seize firearms, but I was always ordered to stand down and not to seize the firearms."

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the panel, has spearheaded the congressional investigation into the ATF's "Operation Fast and Furious." He said the hopes of scoring a knockout blow against the Mexican cartels badly misfired, and then continued over the objections of federal agents.

The program came to a crashing halt in January with the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Two guns purchased under ATF surveillance were found near Terry's corpse, but it is unknown whether they were used in his death.

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