WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Friday provided Congress with documents detailing how department officials gave inaccurate information to a U.S. senator in the controversy surrounding Operation Fast and Furious, the flawed law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling major arms trafficking networks on the Southwest border.
In a letter last February to Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had not sanctioned the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser and that the agency makes every effort to intercept weapons that have been purchased illegally. In Operation Fast and Furious, both statements turned out to be incorrect.
The department turned over 1,364 pages of material to Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is looking into the Obama administration's handling of Operation Fast and Furious.
The operation involved more than 2,000 weapons that were purchased by straw buyers at Phoenix-area gun stores. Nearly 700 of the Fast and Furious guns have been recovered — 276 in Mexico and 389 in the United States, according to ATF data as of Oct. 20.
Amid probes by Republicans in Congress and the IG, the Justice Department in August replaced a U.S. attorney, acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson and the lead prosecutor in Operation Fast and Furious.