Grassley seeks independent probe of ATF
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) in early March said that he did not have confidence that the Justice Department Inspector General’s office could produce a report that the public would view as frank and unbiased in its investigation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) policy of letting guns “walk” along the Southwest bordera policy that may have contributed to the death of a US Customs and Border Patrol agent.
In a letter in early March to Kevin Perkins, the head of the Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, Grassley cited several conflicts that lead him to believe that the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Justice cannot be seen as completely disinterested and independent.
“There are certainly better and more independent ways to conduct this investigation. To have an acting Inspector General’s office lead an investigation like this one just won’t pass the smell test,” Grassley said. “The fact that the Inspector General did not take this whistleblower’s allegations seriously enough to even call him back raises a lot of red flags for me.”
Attorney General Eric Holder had earlier asked the Justice Department inspector general to take another look at the efforts of US agents charged with hunting gun traffickers along the border with Mexico.
Holder’s decision was followed by the acting director of the ATF, Kenneth E. Melson, announcing that the agency will ask a panel of law enforcement professionals to review the bureau’s firearms trafficking strategies.
The stew brewing over ATF whistleblower claims that ATF allowed gun trafficking, ostensibly to track their final destination so it could build cases, has been boiling as more major media pursue this developing story.
Now the Los Angeles Times reports that new heat has been applied as Mexican lawmakers demand answers about guns smuggled under ATF’s watch.
Reporting from Seattle and Mexico City, the newspaper said lawmakers in Mexico are demanding an investigation into a US law enforcement operation that allowed hundreds of weapons to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels amid claims from a ranking legislator that at least 150 Mexicans have been killed or wounded by guns trafficked by smugglers under the watch of US agents.
And US authorities claim manpower shortages and the high number of weapons sold resulted in their losing track of hundreds of guns, from pistols to .50-caliber rifles.
At least one federal agent deeply involved in the Phoenix-based operations called Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious said it was “impossible” that US authorities did not know the weapons were headed for Mexico.
ATF has acknowledged that at least 195 weapons sold in Arizona under Operation Fast and Furious have been recovered in Mexico, traced as a matter of routine via serial numbers after their recovery from crime scenes, arrests and searches, The LA Times said.
CBS News reported that federal agents acknowledged allowing guns into Mexico as part of a Justice Department-approved plan by ATF to disrupt a drug cartel.
Meanwhile, FoxNews reported that ATF and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have launched a damage control effort to minimize agency damage caused by what is becoming a major scandal, advising ATF offices to seek favorable news coverage for other operations.
“The questions,” FoxNews wondered, “is how high does this go and will Congress call for a formal investigation of its own.”
“I’m still asking questions and we’re getting the runaround from the Justice Department,” Grassley told Fox News.
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