Senior ATF, Justice officials ignored Mexico-based agents’ complaints, bragged about Fast and Furious successes

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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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.

Gil also told Congressional investigators that Obama administration officials worried he’d tell the Mexican ambassador or brief the Mexican government on the operation. He said that’s why he wasn’t given specifics or details about Operation Fast and Furious. “I can tell you what I was told and they were afraid I was going to either brief the ambassador on it or brief the Government of Mexico officials on it,” Gil said, adding that, “They were just worried about somebody leaking whatever was unique about this investigation.”

Gil said his bosses promised him Operation Fast and Furious would be shut down in the summer of 2010. It did not officially end, though, until the end of 2010, after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death.

Gil and now-acting ATF attaché to Mexico Carlos Canino also told congressional investigators high-ranking ATF and Justice Department officials bragged about what they considered successes of Operation Fast and Furious. Officials they said included Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who oversees the DOJ’s criminal division, and acting ATF director Ken Melson.

“Lanny Breuer says, yeah, there is a good case, there is a good case out of Phoenix,” Canino said of a meeting he and Gil had with Breuer and the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual.

Gil said Breuer was going to present the outcome of Operation Fast and Furious to Mexican authorities as evidence of a positive effort to stop weapons trafficking. Gil said Breuer said the ATF investigation “looks like it’s going to generate some good results and it will be a good positive case that we can present to the Government of Mexico as efforts that the US government is taking to try and interdict weapons going into Mexico.”

As for Melson’s praise for Operation Fast and Furious, Gil and Canino confirmed for congressional investigators that Melson mentioned and talked about the investigation during a spring 2010 visit to Mexico. “Generally, his response was, he’s aware of it, it’s an ongoing investigation, it’s providing some good intelligence.”

Justice Department spokespersons have not responded to The Daily Caller’s requests for comment on these new developments.