WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday on Univision that he did not know about “Operation Fast and Furious,” a U.S. operation that allowed thousands of firearms to be smuggled into Mexico.
The president told Univision’s Jorge Ramos during his recent tour of Latin America that neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder authorized the operation.
He also said that Holder has said repeatedly that U.S. policy is to capture weapons traffickers and put them in jail, adding that Holder had named an inspector general to investigate what had happened.
U.S. agents allowed the smuggling of guns into Mexico in an effort to trace the weapons to the highest levels of Mexico’s drug cartels.
Mexico has asked for detailed information about the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, operation, which has been the subject of numerous reports in the U.S. and Mexican media.
ATF lost track of hundreds of the weapons, U.S. media outlets reported.
The operation has created problems between the two governments, who are trying to move closer in their bilateral relationship, especially in the fight against drug traffickers, other organized crime groups and arms traffickers.
Obama reiterated that he had not been informed of the operation and added that he supposed that his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderon, also had no knowledge of it.
But the president went on to say: “There may be a situation here which a serious mistake was made and if that’s the case then we’ll find out and we’ll hold somebody accountable.”
A former ATF agent told CBS last week that the operation was approved by a high-level official in the U.S. Justice Department.
Darren Gil, former head agent in Mexico for U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operations, said his direct supervisor in Washington told him the sting had been approved by officials of higher rank than ATF director Kenneth Melson.
Gil said in an exclusive interview Friday with CBS investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson that he asked his supervisor if Melson was aware of the operation and the latter responded: “Yes, the director’s aware of it. Not only is the director aware of it, D.O.J.’s aware of it.”
CBS News reported that Gil told Attkisson that a senior Justice Department official, Lanny Breuer, visited Mexico last summer and told ATF staff about a big case against suspected gun smugglers that was having good results.