FIRST ON FOX: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is set to destroy firearms associated with the Obama-era Operation Fast and Furious scandal, sparking a rebuke from the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
The ATF informed the House and Senate Judiciary Committees of its decision to dispose of the weapons this week. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said the move was improper given the scandal was still a matter of public concern.
“Although the ATF apparently intends to forget its dangerous misconduct in Operation Fast and Furious, the scandal is still a matter of public concern,” Jordan wrote in a letter to the ATF on Tuesday. “Given the potential for ongoing criminal and possible civil actions, it is not in the interest of justice for the ATF to destroy potential evidence associated with Operation Fast and Furious.”
The ATF’s decision was made after the Department of Justice’s inspector general conducted an audit of an ATF storage site in West Virginia where “thousands of firearms, firearm parts, and ammunition had been stolen.”
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The audit found that weapons seized in relation to Operation Fast and Furious were improperly stored on top of an emergency gun vault. The weapons, according to the audit, were stored in that manner, despite there being room for the firearms in the emergency vault.
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“While these firearms were secured in shipping cases, the cases could be accessed by an individual using one of the ladders kept in the same area of the facility,” the inspector general’s report reads.
The inspector general recommended that the ATF dispose of the weapons as they were not critical to the agency’s mission. The ATF agreed to the recommendation after confirming that all “criminal investigations, internal DOJ reviews, and civil suits relating to Operation Fast and Furious have concluded and that stored evidence from that investigation no longer needs to be preserved.”
Jordan, who is slated to lead the House Judiciary Committee when Republicans take power in January, disagrees with the assessment and is urging the ATF to preserve the weapons.
“Earlier this year, prosecutors in Mexico charged seven individuals with crimes related to Operation Fast and Furious, including Mexico’s former top police officer and a former Mexican Federal Police
commander,” he wrote.
Operation Fast and Furious was a high-profile scandal that ensnared former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department, the ATF, and former Attorney General Eric Holder. The imbroglio saw federal agents allow more than 2,000 firearms to be sold illegally to known or suspected straw purchasers.
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At the time, the federal government hoped the weapons could be used to track and ultimately arrest the high-ranking leaders of drug cartels in Mexico. The sting operation backfired, however, with the guns being used to facilitate crimes along the US-Mexico border.
The scandal came to light in 2011 shortly after two firearms involved in the sting were found at a crime scene where a US Border Patrol agent was killed.
ATF declined to comment.