U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former Texas Attorney General, issued the following statement responding to reports the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms used the botched "Fast and Furious" operation to argue for stricter regulations on firearms dealers in four states including Texas:
"If these reports are true, even by Washington standards this reaches a new level of arrogance and corruption. Yet again, the Attorney General has some explaining to do."
Operation Fast and Furious was a sting operation conducted by ATF officials between 2009 and 2010. Part of Project Gunrunner, it attempted to cut off the flow of illegal firearms traffic into Mexico by targeting "straw purchasers," those who bought weapons on behalf of Mexican drug cartels. ATF would attempt to link these purchasers to the cartels, as the ultimate gun purchasers, in order to build a larger case against them.
The operation ended in late 2010 shortly after the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Terry was killed in a gun fight near Rio Rico, Arizona, while trying to apprehend a group of armed suspects. Two weapons found at that crime scene were traced to a Glendale, Arizona, gun store that had cooperated with ATF officials in Fast and Furious. ATF field agents monitoring the border had intended to apprehend gun smugglers that had large numbers of guns, but were told by their superiors to stand down and let the smugglers pass.
By June 2011, the guns monitored in the program have been linked to some 179 crime scenes in Mexico. By August 2011, 21 additional guns were recovered from other crime scenes in Mexico. Out of 2,000 guns knowingly allowed to cross into Mexico, only 600 have been reported as recovered by officials.
On Nov. 8, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder openly stated in Congressional testimony that the operation was "flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution," and he furthermore stated that his office had inaccurately described the program in previous letters sent to Congress. Holder remarked that his staff had not kept him informed about the program, and denied any personal wrongdoing.