WASHINGTON -- Nearly two years after a U.S. Border Patrol agent was shot and killed in southern Arizona, the Department of Justice inspector general’s office will issue its report on the ATF’s Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation, which allowed illegal firearms to circulate among criminals on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The report, scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. EDT, was called for by Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. after mounting criticism that the Justice Department, federal ATF agents in Phoenix and supervisors in Washington ran the Fast and Furious operation for more than a year without appropriate supervision.
The program was not shut down until two months after Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010. At that point, whistle-blowers went public with assertions that the ATF had hoped to track firearms to Mexican cartel leaders but instead lost about 2,000 weapons. Some were recovered at violent crime scenes in Mexico and in the hands of gun smugglers in this country.
The report -- the first independent review of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and its Fast and Furious operation -- sets the stage for Holder and the Obama administration to decide whether individual agents and supervisors should be punished, and on a larger scale how best to restore confidence in the long-troubled ATF.
Also likely to be disclosed is how deeply Justice Department officials were involved in overseeing Fast and Furious, especially because several top officials approved wiretap applications for the program.
Terry was killed by Mexican bandits in a confrontation south of Tucson, and two Fast and Furious weapons were later recovered at the scene of his death.