Senior U.S. Justice Department officials were aware that ATF agents allowed firearms to be “walked” into Mexico, reports the Los Angeles Times, citing emails last year in which they discussed two undercover operations on the Southwest border, including the failed Fast and Furious program. Justice Department officials last October discussed both the Fast and Furious gun-trafficking surveillance operation in Phoenix and a separate investigation from 2006 and 2007 called Operation Wide Receiver.
In Wide Receiver, which took place in Tucson, firearms also were acquired by illegal straw purchasers and lost in Mexico, the emails say. The term “gun walking” is central to the failure of Fast and Furious. Agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders and arrest them. But they lost track of more than 2,000 weapons, and the Mexican government says some of them have turned up at about 170 crime scenes there. Two were recovered at the scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent’s slaying in Arizona in December. Justice Department officials have said that they knew nothing of Fast and Furious tactics until ATF whistle-blowers went public this year with allegations that guns were being illegally purchased with the ATF’s knowledge.