A federal operation that allowed U.S. weapons to pass into the hands of suspected gun smugglers so they could be traced to higher echelons of Mexican drug cartels has lost track of hundreds of firearms, many of which have been linked to crimes, including indirectly to the fatal shooting of a Border Patrol agent in December, reports the Washington Post. The Operation Fast and Furious investigation proceeded even though U.S. authorities suspected that some of the weapons might be used in crimes.
Many weapons have spread across the most violence-torn states in Mexico, with at least 195 linked to some form of crime or law enforcement action, according to documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and the Los Angeles Times. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which ran the operation, said that 1,765 guns were sold to suspected smugglers during a 15-month period of the investigation. Of those, 797 were recovered on both sides of the border.