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ATF Takes up Turkey Farming at a Fast and Furious Pace

Joan R. Neubauer's picture

According to the August 16 edition of the Los Angeles Times, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has promoted three key supervisors involved in Operation Fast and Furious.

The controversial sting operation promoted the illegal sale and transport of firearms from the U.S. to Mexico with the intention of tracking the guns and then making arrests of drug cartel members and leaders.

The three supervisors, William G. McMahon, formerly the ATF’s deputy director of operations in the West, and William D. Newell and David Voth, both field supervisors who oversaw the program out of the agency’s Phoenix office, have been given new management positions at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

The operation quickly got out of control and because of a failure in tracking procedures. At least 2,000 guns were lost and many turned up at crime scenes in Mexico, and two at the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona. No arrests resulted from the operation.

“I share responsibility for mistakes that were made,” McMahon testified to a House committee three weeks ago. “The advantage of hindsight, the benefit of a thorough review of the case, clearly points me to things that I would have done differently.”

McMahon was promoted to deputy assistant director of the ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations, the division that investigates misconduct by employees and other problems.

Kenneth E. Melson, the ATF’s acting director, in an agency-wide confidential email announcing the promotion, that McMahon was among ATF employees being rewarded because of “the skills and abilities they have demonstrated throughout their careers.”

On Aug. 1, the ATF announced Newell as the special assistant to the assistant director of the agency’s Office of Management in Washington. Voth was promoted to branch chief for the ATF’s tobacco division.

On August 17, the Los Angeles Times reported that the ATF claims they did not promote the three men, but rather moved them out of the field to lateral positions.

The program ran from November 2009 to January 2011, with the aim of identifying Mexican drug cartel leaders by allowing illegal purchases of firearms and then tracking those weapons. Nearly 200 were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, and in December two semiautomatics were found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s slaying in Arizona.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, involved in the investigation of the operation, in a speech from the Senate floor has expressed his belief that the administration set Operation Fast and Furious “to ‘justify’ further infringement of our Second Amendment rights.”

The investigation continues.

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