Sunday, January 29, 2012

AZMEX F&F EXTRA 2 29-1-12

AZMEX F&F EXTRA 2 29-1-12

Note: For those who haven't seen it.

Changes in wake of probe of Fast and Furious
By Pete Yost The Associated Press Arizona Daily Star |
Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2012 4:00 pm | Comments

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is tightening procedures for
responding to information requests from Congress in the aftermath of
a troubled arms trafficking investigation.

In Operation Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives allowed hundreds of weapons to flow across
the border into Mexico.

The Justice Department told three congressional committees in a
letter Friday night that it has improved coordination between agents
and their managers in carrying out arms trafficking investigations.

Attorney General Eric Holder probably will face questions about the
changes when he testifies Thursday before the House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee. That committee has been investigating
the department's mistakes in the probe since early last year.

In a letter last February to Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the top
Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the department said
that ATF had not authorized the sale of assault weapons to a straw
purchaser and that the agency makes every effort to intercept weapons
that have been purchased illegally.

Yet in Operation Fast and Furious, both statements turned out to be
incorrect because the ATF office in Phoenix had undertaken a risky
tactic known as "gun-walking" in an unsuccessful effort to track
small-time illicit gun buyers to the heads of major arms trafficking

Many of the guns wound up at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S.,
including the scene of a killing near Nogales, Ariz., where U.S.
border agent Brian Terry was slain. Two guns connected to Fast and
Furious were found at the scene of Terry's murder.

Some ATF agents with direct knowledge of what had gone on with
Operation Fast and Furious were talking to Grassley's office. In
contrast, the Justice Department was relying on information from top
ATF officials in Washington and the U.S. attorney in Phoenix, who all
incorrectly denied that ATF was allowing weapons purchases by "straw"
buyers to transport guns into Mexico.

In the letter to Congress on Friday night, Deputy Attorney General
James Cole said the department must solicit information directly from
employees with detailed personal knowledge of the subject matter at
issue and consult records relevant to the inquiry if such records are

"Recognize that, in some instances, the employees with the most
relevant information may already have made protected disclosures on
the subject to Congress or others," the letter said.

The department emphasized its commitment to protecting the rights of
whistleblowers, but added that the Whistleblower Protection Act does
not bar the department from seeking relevant information directly
from employees who have made protected disclosures.

Doing so, the letter said, is necessary "to ensure the accuracy and
completeness" of information provided to Congress.

The ATF has expanded the opportunities for employees to raise work-
related concerns and stressed the need for supervisory level
officials to be receptive to those concerns, Cole's letter adds. In
other changes, the ATF:

• Told all of its agents that they must take all reasonable steps to
prevent a firearm's criminal misuse and that early intervention may
be necessary to prevent trafficking.

• Has improved coordination between field agents and headquarters
personnel in Washington.

• Engaged in training for agents in Arizona and New Mexico with a
renewed emphasis on intercepting illicit weapons shipments.

• Is giving agents a direct line of communication to the agency's

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