A high-ranking U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official apologized yesterday for mistakes made in a botched Arizona gun-trafficking operation during a congressional hearing in which lawmakers grilled federal agents about why they allowed more than 2,000 firearms to hit the streets in Mexico and the United States, reports the Washington Post. Deputy Assistant Director William McMahon said the agency made mistakes in losing control of so many firearms during the controversial Operation Fast and Furious, which was intended to disrupt a Mexican drug cartel trafficking network.
The strategy ” did not take into account the safety of the citizens of the United States and Mexico and blindly concentrated only on the goals of their investigation,” testified Lorren Leadmon, the leader of the ATF field intelligence support team for the Southwest border. “It is truly a sad time for each of us at ATF, and the impact of all this has been devastating.” Darren Gil, a former ATF attache to Mexico, testified that he became concerned that large numbers of assault weapons traced back to Phoenix were showing up at Mexican crime scenes last year. Neither he nor any Mexican officials were told about the operation, he said. Gil called his superiors in Washington and Phoenix and urged them to shut down any gun operation they might be running because of the mounting violence. When his frustration reached a boiling point, he got into a shouting match with his superior. Of the 2,020 firearms bought by straw purchasers from cooperating gun dealers during Fast and Furious, 227 have been recovered during criminal activity in Mexico and 363 have been recovered in the U.S.; an additional 1,430 remain on the street.