U.S. Attorney's office in Ariz. under scrutiny by lawmakers


by Stacey Delikat


Posted on September 1, 2011 at 10:18 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 1 at 10:20 PM

PHOENIX--Dennis Burke resigned the office of U.S. Attorney for Arizona earlier this week amidst fallout from Operation Fast and Furious. Now lawmakers in Washington are turning up the heat on others within that office

In a letter to the new interim U.S. Attorney for Arizona, Congressman Darrell Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley say the level of involvement of the office in the "genesis and implementation" of Operation Fast and Furious is "striking."

Under Fast and Furious, ATF agents reportedly allowed sales of firearms to straw buyers to go ahead, in hopes of tracing those guns to higher-ups in Mexican drug cartels. Instead thousands of guns allegedly got lost.

Two of those wound up at the murder scene of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry, who was killed by armed bandits in the dessert last December.

The U.S. Attorney's office is prosecuting the murder, but lawmakers now suggest a conflict of interest may exist.

Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley say in their letter to interim U.S. Attorney Ann Scheel, "Since your office directed and approved the daily tactical decisions in Operation Fast and Furious, it is hard to avoid the perception that a conflict of interest exists."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley comes under particular scrutiny by the lawmakers. They say witnesses reported that Hurley "may have stifled ATF agents' attempts to interdict weapons on numerous occasions."

Hurley is also accused of trying to cover up the connection between Fast and Furious and the guns recovered at the Terry murder scene in the days after Terry was killed.

After Burke's resignation, Hurley was reassigned from the criminal to the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's office.

A Phoenix spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office deferred comment to the Department of Justice. Officials there did not respond to 3TV's request for a response.

The new allegations surfaced as the Department of Justice released new information on some of the weapons involved in Fast and Furious.

According to a letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Welch obtained by 3TV, said they are now aware of at least 24 guns recovered in the United States and Mexico from violent crime scenes.