Begun in October 2009, Operation Fast and Furious was an expansion of a similar program run during the Bush administration three years earlier. The idea was to target high-ranking cartel members by allowing known straw purchasers to cross the border into Mexico and deliver the weapons. It allowed over 2,000 mostly AK-47s, worth $1.5 million, to “walk” without interdiction into Mexico. Only about 100 guns were recovered before crossing the border.
The operation did lead to indictments against 40 alleged gun-runners and criminals, but the guns run through Fast and Furious have been found at dozens of Mexican murder scenes as well as near where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down by bandits in December 2010.
In February 2011, a letter signed off on – but apparently never actually read – by Justice Department Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer claimed that the US had never let guns “walk” across the border. Mr. Breuer reports directly to Holder. Ten months later, Holder was forced to retract that letter after it became clear that US agents had done exactly that – on a huge scale.
On Thursday, Horowitz pointed to concerns throughout the Justice Department, especially at the US attorney's office in Phoenix and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).