'Hannity' Investigates Operation Fast & Furious

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," August 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Now, the Fast and Furious story might have never come out had it not been for one major national tragedy. And like many parts of the story, it all started near the Mexican border.


(voice-over) For Mexican drug cartels crossing the border is just the beginning.

SGT. RAFAEL CORRALES, SANTA CRUZ SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: They got miles to walk before they get anywhere.

HANNITY: Stepped up enforcement near cities has pushed them into remote areas like Arizona's Peck Canyon, a notoriously dangerous smuggling corridor 14 miles north of the fence.

CORRALES: The terrain is just rough. It is not drivable by vehicle. It's not drivable by ATVs. The violence in that area is very high.

HANNITY: Much of Peck Canyon looks more like Afghanistan than the United States.

RON COLBURN (RET), BORDER PATROL DEPUTY CHIEF: There are numerous caves throughout these canyons and mountains, and this is very extreme terrain. You can't even get here to deploy except by air.

HANNITY: Yet, it is in this rugged landscape that the cartels wage war against each other on American soil.

CORRALES: You got the mules that are packing the drugs. And they are armed. And then you've got the people that are going to rip them off.

HANNITY: It has been called smuggler's paradise. And the area is a hot spot for armed cartel rip crews.

COLBURN: Rip crews are specifically aiming at ripping off drug loads from their competitors. They are the most dangerous kind of criminals one can encounter on the border. Most of them have former military backgrounds from the Mexican army and sign up with the drug traffickers just to do these kinds of remote area tactical operations.

LT. MATT THOMAS, POLK COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: They don't have any problem assaulting people, they don't have any problem shooting people.

CORRALES: If they go back into Mexico without their merchandise, they are going to get killed. So, that is making it so tough for us to fight it on this side. It is getting very violent.

MICHAEL FISHER, U.S. BORDER PATROL CHIEF: Violence against other groups and in particular violence against border patrol agents, CVP officers, and other law enforcement agencies.

HANNITY: On the night of December 14th, 2010 Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was part of a small elite tactical team working to track rip crews in the darkness near Peck Canyon.

COLBURN: Agent Terry work team infiltrated on foot into an area down this canyon, and they set up an interdiction zone of a known narcotics trafficking and rip crew trail. Keep in mind that Brian and his Bortac team of special operations operators were working in the dark of night. This is truly rough terrain.

HANNITY: They soon encountered a group of at least five men each armed with automatic weapons. A fierce shootout ensued.

COLBURN: In the end, one Mexican national, a member of a rip crew, lay wounded and Brian Terry was dying.

RICK BARLOW, BORDER PATROL DEPUTY CHIEF: Last night, Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry was shot and killed in the line of duty as he encountered several suspects near Rio Rico, Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brian Terry's life of service to God, family, country and corp, is a life well lived.

FISHER: Our stronghold along that border was agent Terry's final stand.

It doesn't get easier. I do not relish as a chief of the Border Patrol handing out folded American flags to surviving family members.

HANNITY: It was to have been agent Terry's last night of work before going home to Michigan for a Christmas vacation.

ROBERT HEYER, BRIAN TERRY'S COUSIN: Brian did ultimately come home that Christmas. We buried him not far from the House that he was raised in just prior to Christmas Day.

COLBURN: There are times when you just can't hold back the tears, because it is like losing a son, it's like losing a nephew. And I truly felt like a true son of the United States of America (INAUDIBLE) Border Patrol was lost that night.

HANNITY: At the scene of the shooting, agents arrested Manuel Osario Arianos (ph) and recovered three AK-47 type assault weapons. Two of them had been purchased in Arizona by a man named Jaime Avila, who was under surveillance as part of the Fast and Furious operation. Avila was arrested the next day.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR, R-IDAHO: Ms. Terry, when did you first here about the weapons being purchased through the operation Fast and Furious?

JOSEPHINE TERRY, BRIAN TERRY'S MOTHER: Mostly TV, media, newspapers. I never really got a column until it was brought out in the newspapers. I was flabbergasted. I just didn't believe it at first.

HANNITY: Ballistic tests could not identify the murder weapon but lawmakers were outraged.

ISSA: Brian Terry's loss was preventable, it was regrettable and preventable.

HEYER: What makes Brian's death so shocking to his family is that he did not die on a foreign battlefield. He died not in Iraq or Afghanistan. But in the desert outside of Rio Rico Arizona some 18 miles inside of the U.S.-Mexican border. His killers were not Taliban insurgents or Al Qaeda fighters, but a small group of Mexican drug cartel bandits, heavily armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

HANNITY: And so family is not just left to grieve but also to look for answers.

PAUL CHARLTON, TERRY FAMILY ATTORNEY: Every one of them men and women who are involved in Fast and Furious as we can say with absolute scrutiny based on my experience are men and women of good faith, men and women who wanted to do the right thing. But they hadn't fully thought about the consequences of their actions. That inability to look into the future, to understand the risks that they were taking, is their down fall. And maybe, although we don't yet know, the reason for Brian Terry's tragic death.


HANNITY: A very sad, a very unnecessary story. Now, if you would like to help the Terry family and the families of other fallen Border Patrol agents, just go to borderpatrolfoundation.org.

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