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Agents, not Justice Dept. to blame in Fast and Furious

WASHINGTON — El Departamento de Justicia de Estados Unidos está ajustando sus procedimientos para responder a los pedidos de información del Congreso después de una fallida investigación sobre tráfico de armas a México.
La operación denominada «Fast and Furious» (Rápido y furioso), la Oficina para el Control de Bebidas Alcohólicas, Tabaco, Armas de Fuego y Explosivos (ATF por sus iniciales en inglés) permitió que cientos de armas traspusieran la frontera rumbo a México.
En una carta el viernes por la noche, el Departamento de Justicia dijo a tres comités legislativos que ha mejorado la coordinación entre agentes y sus supervisores en las investigaciones sobre tráfico de armas.
El secretario de justicia, Eric Holder, probablemente enfrentará preguntas sobre dichos cambios cuando comparezca el jueves ante la Comisión para la Supervisión y Reforma del Gobierno de la Cámara de Representantes. Ese comité ha investigado los errores del departamento en la investigación desde comienzos del año pasado.
En una carta enviada en febrero de 2011 al senador de Iowa Charles Grassley, el republicano de más rango de la Comisión de Asuntos Judiciales del Senado, el Departamento dijo que la ATF no había autorizado la venta de armas a un comprador insignificante y que la agencia hace todo esfuerzo posible por interceptar armas compradas ilegalmente.
Sin embargo, en la operación Fast and Furious, ambas declaraciones resultaron incorrectas debido a que la oficina de la ATF en Phoenix, Arizona, había desarrollado una táctica riesgosa de permitir el paso de armas en un esfuerzo infructuoso por rastrear las mayores redes de tráfico de armas a partir de los compradores menores.
Muchas de las armas aparecieron en escenas de crímenes en México y Estados Unidos, incluso cerca de Nogales, Arizona, donde fue muerto el agente fronterizo estadounidense Brian Terry. Allí se hallaron dos armas vinculadas con aquella operación.
En la carta al Congreso el viernes por la noche, el subsecretario de justicia James Cole dijo que el Departamento debe solicitar información directamente a los empleados con conocimiento de primera mano de la cuestión y consultar registros relacionados con la investigación si es que están disponibles.

Report: Agents, not Justice Dept. to blame in Fast and Furious

PHOENIX.- A U.S. House minority report on the gun-smuggling probe known as Fast and Furious blames federal agents in Arizona for the flawed operation while exonerating top-level Justice Department officials.
The 89-page analysis, released Tuesday by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is based upon five congressional hearings, testimony from 22 witnesses and about 12,000 pages of documents.
Its conclusion: «Operation Fast and Furious was the latest in a series of fatally flawed operations run by ATF agents in Phoenix and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office. Far from a strategy that was ‘directed and planned by the highest levels of the Department of Justice,’ as some have alleged, the committee has obtained no evidence that Operation Fast and Furious was conceived or directed by high-level political appointees at Department of Justice headquarters.»
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, which is conducting a joint investigation of Fast and Furious, scoffed at the Democrats’ findings.
«The idea that senior political appointees have clean hands in these gun-walking scandals doesn’t pass the laugh test,» Grassley said in a news release. «They ignored the warning signs and failed to put a stop to it or hold anyone accountable.»
Fast and Furious, launched in 2010, was a firearms-trafficking investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. According to Justice Department records and congressional testimony, agents and federal prosecutors in Arizona allowed gun purchasers to smuggle weapons into Mexico in the hope of identifying and prosecuting high-level cartel figures.
Political controversy erupted with revelations that as many as 1,400 guns had crossed the border and that two AK-47s from Fast and Furious were discovered at the scene of a 2010 firefight in which bandits killed a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Republicans in Congress have pressed to implicate Attorney General Eric Holder and other Obama administration figures in the strategy that was dubbed «gun walking.» Some have suggested that firearms were allowed into Mexico as part of a plot to promote gun-control legislation.
The Democrats’ report says House committee members uncovered «no evidence indicating that the attorney general authorized gun walking or that he was aware of such allegations before they became public.»
Holder is scheduled to testify before the committee again on Thursday. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House committee, sent him a letter Tuesday that accuses the Justice Department of a «cover-up» and threatens the attorney general with contempt of Congress for withholding records.
The Democrats’ report singles out ATF administrators in Phoenix and former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke for criticism. Regarding Burke, who resigned amid congressional inquiries, the report says he gave closed-door testimony acknowledging a failure to adequately monitor the probe while denying knowledge that guns were being «walked» to Mexican cartels. According to the report, Burke testified that «he did not approve gun walking, was not aware it was being used, and did not inform officials in Washington about its use.»
In rebuttal statements, Grassley and Issa said Justice Department records show that Lanny Breuer, a senior political appointee who is chief of the Criminal Division, knew about the gun-walking strategy nearly two years ago, yet the Justice Department later denied the practice.

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