Fourteen teenagers slaughtered at a birthday party in Mexico with weapons purchased during the now-discredited Fast and Furious gunrunning investigation are the faces of a “reckless” operation that allowed hundreds of illegally purchased guns to be transported south of the border.
“We have known for some time that weapons brought to Mexico from Operation Fast and Furious would contribute to significant death and carnage,” said Rep. Darrell E. Issa, who chaired a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigation of Fast and Furious.
“Univision’s new findings add details and faces to what occurred as a result of a reckless initiative, mismanagement and lack of leadership within the U.S. Justice Department,” he said.
Mr. Issa’s comments Wednesday came in the wake of a report Monday by the Spanish-language television network Univision that Fast and Furious weapons were used by members of the Juarez cartel to kill 14 teenagers and wound 12 others at a birthday party during a commando-style raid.
The deaths correspond to concerns outlined last month in a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which concluded after a lengthy investigation that those in charge of overseeing Fast and Furious failed to “adequately consider the risk to the public safety in the United States and Mexico.”
Hundreds of weapons, including AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles, were allowed to flow into Mexico as part of Fast and Furious, finding their way to brutal drug smugglers.
Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz’s report said the Justice Department failed to make any effort to “disrupt a trafficking operation that continued to purchase firearms with impunity for many months.”
The report concluded that Fast and Furious was “seriously flawed and supervised irresponsibly” by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Phoenix field division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona – despite knowing the purchases were financed by Mexican drug traffickers.
Those failures, the report said, showed a disregard “for the safety of individuals in the United States and Mexico.”
Univision reported that at least 20 armed members of La Linea, the enforcer unit of the Juarez cartel, stormed the birthday party in Ciudad Juarez on Jan. 30, 2010, and opened fire on a gathering of nearly 60 teenagers. Citing a Mexican army document, Univision said three high-caliber weapons used in the shootings were linked to Fast and Furious.
“Univision’s story further confirms my fear that these guns, purposefully placed into the hands of violent criminals by President Obama’s Justice Department, are directly responsible for the deaths of countless innocent bystanders,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said Wednesday. “Now we know that children are among the victims. It’s a tragedy and a travesty, and I will not relent in my pursuit to hold accountable those who oversaw this program.”
Mr. Cornyn has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to make public any information the Justice Department has on the existence of federal gunrunning operations in Texas and to reveal the source of weapons found at the February 2011 killing in Mexico of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jaime Zapata.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who began the investigation of Fast and Furious, on Wednesday called Univision’s reporting “heartbreaking,” saying it “shows the tragic consequences on both sides of the border that resulted from allowing these guns to walk.”
“We knew that Fast and Furious guns were also used in Mexico, but the details in these new reports underline the importance of remembering the human costs of this operation,” he said.
ATF field agents working in Mexico testified in July 2011 during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing they were kept in the dark about Fast and Furious and had serious concerns about an alarming rate of guns found in violent crimes in Mexico that had come from Arizona, and predicted the Mexican people would suffer the consequences of narcotics-related firearms violence.