Who is to blame for gun-buying program gone wrong?

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by Kristine Harrington

azfamily.com

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 8:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 26 at 8:17 PM

PHOENIX - It was a very frustrating day for Congress trying to get answers from Phoenix Bureau of Arms Tobacco and Firearms agents regarding “Operation Fast and Furious.”

After seven months of investigating and four hours of testimony Tuesday Congress still cannot tell who authorized the operation and why they thought it was a good idea to let guns go across the border to Mexico.

William Newell, former ATF special agent in charge of Phoenix says, “The purpose was to identify disrupt and dismantle an entire firearms trafficking organization linked to Mexican drug cartel.”

According to testimony the operation was never explained to ATF agents and law enforcement in Mexico.

“How can you let somebody buy 730 guns? At what point do you stop them?” asked Special Agent Carlos Canino, who is acting ATF Attaché to Mexico. 

He is appalled by Operation Fast and Furious and the fact Phoenix agents allowed guns to be sold to straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels then lost track of those guns and basically allowed them to come across the border.

“I have agents, guys I consider American heroes, my friends who I never thought I’d hear say ‘Carlos I’m ashamed to carry the ATF badge’,” said Canino.

ATF leadership defends the operation. “We were investigating large group of individuals breaking the law and we were trying to put a case together to make a large impact. If we pick off one or two straw purchasers they get replaced in a day,” William McMahon, the ATF deputy assistant director for field operations.

ATF agents did not authorize enough surveillance of the weapons and no reliable method of tracing them so most of the 2,000 guns bought by straw purchasers were lost and more than 100 have been recovered at crime scenes including the deadly shooting of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Still, Newell, says, “I truly believe we didn't intentionally let guns walk.”

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