Report blasts US government for Fast and Furious

On Sept. 19 Michael Horowitz, the inspector general of the US Department of Justice, released a 471-page report on Operation Fast and Furious, a bungled program in which the Arizona office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) inadvertently let about 2,000 firearms pass into Mexico during 2009 and 2010, with many of the weapons apparently going to Mexican drug traffickers . The inspector general, a sort of internal auditor for the Justice Department, found that the ATF and US prosecutors in Arizona were at fault in the operation, along with Justice officials in Washington who were responsible for supervising the ATF and the federal prosecutors.

The report recommended that the actions of 17 officials be reviewed for administrative or disciplinary measures. Lanny Breuer, chief of the department’s criminal division, has already been admonished; Jason Weinstein, an assistant deputy attorney general, resigned on Sept. 19, and former ATF acting director Kenneth Melson retired on the same day. But Michael Horowitz cleared Attorney General Eric Holder of any responsibility in the case and provided no evidence to back a right-wing conspiracy theory that the government allowed the weapons into Mexico on purpose to create a case for stricter gun control laws. (NYT, Sept. 20)

Mexican media were especially interested in the report’s finding that in 2011 Breuer proposed to Mexican officials that the US and Mexico cooperate in a similar program to monitor illegal gun purchases as a way of tracking gun smuggling operations. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 21, from DPA, AFP, Notimex) Apparently nothing came of Breuer’s proposal, but in 2010 the administration of Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa had already proposed a law that would allow the Mexican government to carry out operations like Fast and Furious.
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 23.