In March, I blogged about a LA Times exposé reporting on an insane ATF plan to allow guns to be smuggled into Mexico so the agency could supposedly track how and where these guns reached Mexican cartel members. Not surprisingly, the ATF lost track of most of these firearms and many ended up linked to murders and violent crimes in the United States and Mexico. With the matter now being investigated before a U.S. House Committee, the LA Times has a follow-up series this week. Below is an excerpt from "Many Guns Intended For Mexico Drug Cartels Ended Up In U.S., Agents Testify," LA Times, 6/16/11 and links to two more, "Report Describes Gun Agents' 'State of Panic,'" LA Times, 6/14/11 and "ATF Chief Regularly Briefed on Botched Gun Operation," LA Times, 6/15/11:
Even as high-powered weapons flowed toward Mexican drug cartels in a controversial U.S. surveillance program, hundreds more guns probably escaped into the hands of criminals inside the U.S., federal agents told Congress on Wednesday.
"We weren't giving guns to people who were hunting bears. We were giving guns to people who were killing people," Peter Forcelli, group supervisor at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix, told a House committee.
The ATF agents said they were ordered to watch as more than 1,700 guns, including AK-47 variants and other high-powered rifles, were sold to "straw purchasers" in Arizona and then transferred to suspected agents of Mexico's violent drug trafficking organizations.
Mexican officials now believe that at least 150 Mexicans have been killed or wounded with guns smuggled in the operation, code-named Fast and Furious. Less understood is what happened to guns that slipped into the hands of suspected criminals in the U.S.
By the ATF's own estimates, at least 372 guns sold to suspect purchasers have been recovered in Arizona and Texas, mainly at crime scenes. ATF Agent John Dodson has estimated that about a third of the guns sold as part of the operation remained in the U.S.