Politics
FILE - In this March 27, 2006 file photo, a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition is seen at the Seattle Police headquarters in Seattle. In an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department says gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to alert the federal government to frequent buyers of high-powered rifles. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) FILE - In this March 27, 2006 file photo, a Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and ammunition is seen at the Seattle Police headquarters in Seattle. In an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department says gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to alert the federal government to frequent buyers of high-powered rifles. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)  

Did Operation Fast and Furious have a Tampa twin, Operation Castaway?

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

Republican lawmakers are alleging that Operation Fast and Furious may have had a twin in Tampa: Operation Castaway.

The new revelations have come to light as Florida Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis fired off a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and acting ATF Director Ken Melson asking them for answers about the newly discovered program.

“In recent days, it has come to light that the ATF and DOJ have participated in the act of ‘gun walking’ beyond the acts conducted within the scope of ‘Operation Fast and Furious,’” Bilirakis wrote to Holder and Melson.

“Recent reports have suggested that Project Gunrunner may not have been limited to weapons trafficking to Mexico and that similar programs included the possible trafficking of arms to criminal gangs in Honduras with the knowledge of the ATF’s Tampa Field Division and the Department of Justice’s Middle District of Florida through an operation known as ‘Operation Castaway,’” the letter read.

The controversial gun-trafficking sting operation Operation Fast and Furious was managed out of the ATF’s Phoenix field office. Congressional Republicans are investigating whether similar practices were followed elsewhere.

Bilirakis added that, as a member of the House Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs, he finds it “troubling” that the U.S. government would “willfully allow weapons to be acquired by dangerous criminal and drug trafficking organizations in direct contravention to our strategic and national interests.”

Specifically, Bilirakis asked them to confirm whether or not these new allegations are true, what monitoring and tracking processes the DOJ and ATF used to follow the guns after they were sold and whether or not Operation Castaway has been terminated.

Bilirakis sent a separate letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton asking similar questions about ICE’s possible involvement in Operation Castaway.

A spokeswoman for the DOJ didn’t respond to TheDC’s request for comment.