House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, will soon air a different side of Operation Fast and Furious: what Mexico-based U.S. law enforcement officials dealt with. Senior Justice Department leadership in Washington ignored concerns that Mexico-based Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials raised about the program, according to assertions made as part of the congressional investigation.
An oversight committee hearing on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. will examine effects Operation Fast and Furious had on “The Other Side of the Border.”
Former ATF attaché to Mexico Darren Gil told congressional investigators that when he became aware of an “abnormal number of [Fast and Furious weapons] recoveries” in Mexico, he called Phoenix-based ATF officials with his concerns. Gil said they told him they were “working on it” and he was “satisfied” with that first response.
“Unfortunately, my chief analyst and my deputy would come back and say, Darren, these are — we’re getting more and more of these seizures,” Gil said. “And I would make inquiries with the Phoenix field division and I wasn’t getting any responses back.” Gil said he “may have gotten two more phone calls” saying the same thing: “Yeah, we’re working on it, we’re working on it.”
Gil said his analyst and deputy would enter E-Trace data from the weapons they seized in Mexico, but were not granted access to the information about the specific guns. So because Gil’s colleagues in Phoenix shut him out and wouldn’t answer any specific questions, Gil reached out to officials in Washington, D.C.
He called Dan Kumor, ATF’s chief of international affairs, only to get a similar answer. Gil told congressional investigators that Kumor said it was “an on-going investigation.” (Issa, Grassley blast Holder in letter after secret meeting with ATF’s Ken Melson)
“They’re looking at straw purchasers, they have cooperative Federal Firearms Licensees and it sounds like a significant investigation,” Gil said Kumor told him, adding that “he didn’t have access to the trace information either.” But Gil said Kumor told him every official “on the chain” up to Kumor from Phoenix was “aware of the investigation.”
Gil said he wasn’t satisfied with the lack of answers from Washington-based officials, and got into “screaming matches” with Kumor. “Hey, when are they going to shut this, to put it bluntly, damn investigation down, we’re getting hurt down here,” Gil told congressional investigators he’d scream at Kumor.