American Response to Operation Fast and Furious

Will U.S. officials be held accountable?


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 5, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PETER FORCELLI, ATF AGENT: We weren't givi ng guns to people who hunting bear. We were giving guns to people who were killing other humans.

RENE ARCE, MEXICAN SENATOR (via translator): I obviously feel violated. I feel my country's sovereignty was violated.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There's an investigation going on, so to comment on people's jobs and that sort of thing is inappropriate. But the president takes it very seriously. I think he made clear when the -- during the Mexican state visit and the press conference he had then that he found out about this through news reports.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The White House today, responded to the questions about Operation Fast and Furious as Mexican officials say the guns that the ATF, the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, gave to -- sold to folks, trying to track those guns, ended up in the hands of Mexican criminals purposely. And then that ended up with a series of criminal acts, including the killing of some 21 in Sonora, Mexico. William La Jeunesse has done a lot of reporting both in Los Angeles and in Mexico on this.

What about this and where it's headed? We're back with the panel. A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: This is just a very disturbing, obviously tragic, but really a bizarre story. It was an operation that even if it had gone well, was very high risk and really questionable in its aims.

And Democrats are now complaining that, ya know, there is a broader policy question about how ATF agents are not, because of weak gun laws, able to do their job effectively on the U.S.-Mexico border. But it's not really the time to be looking at the broader policy questions for the future. There needs to be a thorough investigation looking back at how this operation was conceived of and how and why it failed. It was just very strange that the goal was to infiltrate the country with bad guns, and then they just did not follow up on the trail of those guns --

BAIER: Right. The intent of the operation, we're told, was to follow the gun from point of sale in the U.S. into Mexico. But agents really didn't do that. They didn't have the surveillance, and the guns ended up all over the place. Only after victims were shot did the U.S. truly know where they ended up according to multiple people's testimony on Capitol Hill. Steve, where does this go? Does it end at Eric Holder's feet? Does it - who gets responsible?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: It's his responsibility, ultimately. It's Eric Holder's responsibility.

But this is a story that is getting bigger by the day, and I expect it to continue growing because it is a big deal. Ya know if you look carefully or listen carefully to what William La Jeunesse reported earlier, you had the Mexican police come to the U.S. government when they have found some guns that they had suspected of perhaps being part of a program like this without actually knowing the details of the program.

And the U.S. government according to William, said basically we don't know anything about this, when in fact they did. If that's the case, I mean, this takes this almost to another level.

Then you had last week reports out of Phoenix that these guns are showing up at crimes here in the United States. In addition to the tragic death of Brian Kerry, I mean, this is not a situation that is going any time soon. And you can see from the White House today, several questions about this from a variety of news outlets, they did not want to talk about this.

BAIER: Now you have Mexican officials, Juan, calling for the leaders of these organizations, like ATF, to be extradited to Mexico and tried in Mexico for providing the guns that killed these, ya know, growing number of people.

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: That's not happening. Talk about violating sovereignty. If the ATF officials were under instructions from higher ups, and I would agree with Steve this has got to be on Eric Holder's desk. Eric Holder has to be the final say on this deal, then it's their responsibility and let the United States government and U.S. officials take responsibility. I think this is a mess.

I understand the good intent that you described earlier, which is that you want to stop gun trafficking. And this has been a problem because of gun laws that it has been easy for the cartels, the drug cartels in Mexico, to obtain guns from the U.S. And it has been a request from Mexican presidents directly to American presidents, Bush and now Obama, that they stop the gun trafficking going into Mexico.

I was down there last year several times -- did a series for FoxNews.com, on the drug traffic and the problem, the murders, the unbelievable horrific scenes; including deaths of children in places like Juarez.

But extending into Mexico City, the kidnapping all of the rest, and occasionally it then leaks over into the U.S. border. I understand the concern about the cartels and the guns, but what has happened here is negligence and it has resulted in, ya know, accelerating the rate of murder.

BAIER: But how much the White House knew about it is a question.

WILLIAMS: Well, Jay says they didn't know. He says the president learned of it from news reports.

BAIER: You buying that?

WILLIAMS: Oh I believe that. I don't think the president knows everything in the world that's going on. This sounds to me like it was an operation that was put in place with good intent and then was allowed to just go like a garden un-weeded and has now gotten out of control and has led to, as I said, tragic ends.

HAYES: The problem is --


BAIER: What's the good intent? I mean, explain to me how it works in -- if it worked perfectly, what happened?

STODDARD: To stop the drug traffic -- the gun trafficking, excuse me, they were going to send more guns into the pipeline and try to trace them and trail them. And that way they would end up being able to better ya know, capture, arrest, prosecute cartel members because they would be able to trace and track the guns. They did not do that. And so it ended up in -- just resulting in an abundance of more guns.

WILLIAMS: I think they wanted to identify who the gun salesmen were along the way and then be able to pull the guns back.

BAIER: I mean, there are memos according to William, that say that not only did the U.S. keep secret that the weapons helped the Mexican cartels, but officials watched as casualties mounted.

HAYES: And that is exactly why you are seeing the ATF now denying open records requests that they would probably otherwise have given up, and the White House isn't talking about it.

BAIER: Congressman Issa is following up on Capitol Hill on this as well.

That's it for the panel, but stay tuned to see a wrap up of a television statement that had the White House up in arms.

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