OTR Interviews

Behind the Failure of 'Operation Fast and Furious'

Was mission that led to weapons ending up with Mexican drug cartels ill-advised from the start?

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 20, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This could be a very big shake-up for the ATF. The acting director of the organization is under pressure tonight to resign. The news comes after the controversy surrounding the ATF's "Operation Fast and Furious." In that operation, the ATF let -- yes, let -- guns flow into Mexico to try then to track down cartel members. But the operation is a huge failure.

And it gets worse. Two weapons found near the scene where border patrol agent Brian Terry was killed were linked to this ATF program. And there's more.

ATF special agent Jay Dobyns joins us. Good evening, sir.

JAY DOBYNS, ATF SPECIAL AGENT: Good evening. Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sir, in terms of "Fast and Furious," do you know who came up with the idea and how high up the chain of the command it was authorized?

DOBYNS: Well, we believe it was generated in part through the attorney general's office, through the Department of Justice, all the way down through ATF to the field-level employees.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know -- in terms of the Justice Department, do you -- I mean, the attorney general's office, do you mean the attorney general himself? Do you have any information to know whether he OK'd it, looked at -- or knew it existed?

DOBYNS: This is not a plan or a program that was initiated by street agents and put into play without approvals at the highest level of government. I guarantee you that.

VAN SUSTEREN: I've actually been on the ground with the ATF down in Arizona. I've seen how hard you guys work. I know it's a really tough job. But I'm curious, the "Fast and Furious" -- was it, you know, ever thought among the agents on the ground that it was a good idea?

DOBYNS: Greta, this is a shirt I was wearing when I was shot trying to deny guns getting into the hands of criminals. Anybody who's an ATF agent knows that we do not put guns in the hands of the enemy, in the hands of the criminals. That -- anybody that's been through our academy for 10 minutes knows that that is everything against what this agency stands for.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so explain to me what "Fast and Furious" was. How did it actually work?

DOBYNS: What they did was allowed guns to knowingly fall into the hands and the possession of people that were supplying criminals, narco-terrorist groups. And then they just started counting bodies on the other side of the transactions, hoping that they were going to get to a cartel. They were willing to climb over dead bodies and play God with ATF and with the laws of our agency in order to try to catch a cartel.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know how long it was in operation, "Fast and Furious," when it started?

DOBYNS: I believe it started 2008 or 2009. And without the website CleanupATF and without agents like John Dodson, who came forward and reported what was going on and reported what was wrong, it would still be going today.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, the acting director, Kenneth Melson -- there are rumors that he's being pushed out, shoved out, sought -- that he will be seeking -- or he's going to resign, the head of ATF, acting director. Is he -- among the agents on the ground, is he thought to be responsible, or is he a scapegoat in this?

DOBYNS: You know, ATF management is now run by people who never had the right to carry an ATF badge or a gun. They've advised Ken Melson, and he has completely lost control of this federal agency and he's allowed his subordinates to completely run wild with no accountability and now is defending all their bad actions.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's being reported at least in one news organization that the Justice Department refuses to comment about this. And White House press secretary, Jay Carney, has told reporters he has no information on the issue. So it looks like there's a lot of dodging on what happened, whose idea was it and who authorized it.

DOBYNS: One of the biggest shames as an ATF agent for me is that the leadership of my agency refuses to answer the questions being presented to them by Congress. That is completely unacceptable. We are paid to handle America's business. We are paid to protect America. And when our congressmen and senators ask us questions, we have an absolute obligation to answer then and answer them honestly.

And the management of ATF is circling their wagons and trying to figure out who they can point the finger at to avoid any personal accountability for what they've done.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any -- let me ask you this again because I want to be specific. Do you have -- have you heard any information that the attorney general of the United States knew this, that he himself knew this program was going on?

DOBYNS: I believe he's been very careful about his words. To say that he approved it -- he's denied his approval of it. But to think that something like this is going on to the scale and to the volume that it did, as the attorney general, as the leader of the Department of Justice and not know about it? That's a lose-lose for him. He either had to know about it and didn't do anything about it, or he didn't know about it and it shows that he's incompetently running the Department of Justice!

VAN SUSTEREN: Agent, thank you, sir. And good luck, sir.

DOBYNS: Thank you.