Whistleblowers: ATF let guns get into criminals' hands

Posted: Updated:

PHOENIX - Agents from the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday that they were told to stand down as criminals in Arizona walked away with guns headed for cartels in Mexico.

Some of those "walked" guns are now linked to the murder of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.

"Two guns with the serial numbers that were sold to straw men, supposedly to go to Mexico, ended up on this side of the border and at the scene of the murder of Terry," Senator Chuck Grassley (R), Iowa, said. Grassley has been at the helm of the ATF investigation.

The strategy known as Operation Fast and Furious was intended to allow agents to follow the weapons to the architects of the cartels on the other side of the border in hopes of building a large conspiracy case, but whistle blowers from within the department say that never happens.

"We weren't giving guns to people who were killing bears, we were giving guns to people who were killing other humans," said ATF Special Agent Peter Forcelli of the Phoenix Division. He and two other agents testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"I and other agents repeatedly raised questions and was told I did not understand the plan," Special Agent John Dodson testified.

The agents described a process in which they were ordered to monitor straw purchases of handguns and high-powered assault rifles put not take any enforcement action.

"We monitored as they purchased handguns, AK-47 variants and 50-caliber rifles, almost daily at times. Rather than conduct any enforcement actions, we took notes, we recorded observations, we tracked movements of these individual we wrote reports, but nothing more," said Dodson.

Brian Terry's family also testified, saying they are frustrated by the lack of information they've gotten from federal prosecutors about the suspects and the weapons that were used in the murder.

"I did ask a lot about how it happened, when it happened, why it happened but never got no answers because no one wanted to say anything," said Josephine Terry, Brian Terry's mother.

Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich answered questions on behalf of the Justice Department.

"The Attorney General has said he wants to get to the bottom of this," Weich said.

The Fast and Furious Operation ceased operation earlier this year.