Two days after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was killed in December, the top ATF supervisors in Phoenix said in internal emails that weapons found at the scene in Arizona came from a failed agency sting operation.
But nearly two months later, when U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) inquired about the origin of the guns, senior officials in Washington with the Justice Department and its Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were evasive.
Grassley asked whether the guns were "used" in the killing. According to agency emails obtained by the Tribune/Times Washington bureau, the Justice Department response to Grassley said that "these allegations are not true." The response made no acknowledgement that the guns were even there.
DOCUMENTS: Read the emails
ATF officials, speaking not for attribution because the probe is ongoing, said they saw a distinction between the guns being found at the scene and "used" in the killing. They said the FBI had determined that neither of the two AK-47 semiautomatics was the one that killed the agent.
The parsing of the response to Grassley fit a pattern of ATF and Justice Department officials seeking to minimize the depth of the problems with the sting operation run by the ATF's Phoenix field office.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
LA Times: ATF sought to downplay guns scandal, emails show.
The cover-up began . . .