The investigation into a federal operation that allowed Mexican drug cartels to acquire U.S. weapons escalated Thursday with new revelations that an Arizona gun dealer repeatedly expressed fears that his guns were falling into the “hands of the bad guys” but was encouraged by federal agents to continue the sales.
A series of emails released by congressional investigators showed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives encouraged the gun dealer against his better judgment to sell high-powered weapons to buyers he believed were agents for the drug cartels.
Employees of the dealer videotaped gun buyers — suspected “straw purchasers” who could legally buy the guns, though cartel members could not — exchanging money with other individuals on the dealer’s premises.
The aim of the ATF program, called Project Gunrunner, was to gather intelligence on suspicious weapons sales and arrest senior members of international trafficking chains.
In an eerie case of premonition, the gun dealer expressed fears that the guns he was selling could be used against U.S. border agents.
“I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys,” the dealer, who has not been named, wrote in June 2010 to David Voth, the lead ATF case agent in Phoenix. “I want to help ATF with its investigation but not at the risk of agents’ safety, because I have some very close friends that are U.S. Border Patrol agents in southern AZ.”
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And more from CBS, as Senator Grassley accuses the agency of willful gun trafficking: