Bungled ATF Sting Put Guns in Hands of Drug Cartels

...and one was linked to the murder of Border Patrol agent

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 4, 2011 3:41 AM CST | Updated Mar 4, 2011 6:00 AM CST
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(Newser) – A bungled Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sting operation allowed hundreds of guns to fall into the hands of Mexican criminals, and more than one ATF agent is now saying "I told you so." The bureau hoped to trace the guns from American sellers to the top echelon of drug cartels, but they lost track of hundreds of them, the Los Angeles Times reports. Almost 200 were only recovered after they were linked to crimes, including the December murder of a Border Patrol agent.

ATF agents say they raised concerns about the potential for the operation to go wrong "quite vocally to the point of yelling, screaming" but were overridden. "We're not talking about bags of dope. We're not letting the guy walk away with a stolen flat-screen TV. We're talking about guns. Our job is to keep guns off the street and out of criminals' hands and prevent them from being used in violent situations," one agent says.

A cache of seized weapons is displayed Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011 in Phoenix. A
A cache of seized weapons is displayed Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011 in Phoenix. A   (AP Photo/Matt York)
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I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to petty arguing, rumors or other adolescent behavior. This is the pinnacle of domestic US law enforcement techniques. - Email from an ATF supervisor
to dissenting agents

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