The $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus, was passed by Congress and signed into law in February 2009. From this near-trillion dollar trove, the administration allocated $10 million to the ATF’s “Project Gunrunner” to increase staff by 37 persons, according to a November 2010 Department of Justice Inspector General report.
The phased-in hiring of stimulus-funded staff was almost complete by September 2010, according to the IG report.
Project Gunrunner had begun in 2006 to trace U.S. guns being sold to Mexican criminals. As the program evolved, in some cases the tracing of guns included allowing the sale of guns through straw purchases.
“According to ATF, a ‘straw purchase’ occurs when the actual buyer of a firearm uses another person, the ‘straw purchaser,’ to execute the paperwork necessary to purchase a firearm from a gun dealer,” the IG report says. “The actual buyer is often prohibited from purchasing a gun. The straw purchaser violates federal law by making a false statement with respect to the information required to be kept in the gun dealer’s records.”
The controversial Operation of Fast and Furious, which allowed nearly 2,000 guns to flow into Mexico, was the Phoenix, Ariz. component of Project Gunrunner, a national program.
A Nov. 8, 2011 memo from the Justice Department’s Acting Inspector General Cyntyia Schnedar to the attorney general, Eric Holder, stated, “ATF’s efforts to manage its Southwest border law enforcement responsibilities have been complicated by allegations that a gun trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious was mishandled and endangered public safety.”
“Operation Fast and Furious grew out of ATF’s Project Gunrunner, a national initiative to stem firearms trafficking to Mexico, and the Department’s Southwest Border Enforcement Initiative, which is intended to reduce cross-border drug and firearms trafficking and the high level of violence associated with these activities,” the memo continued.
“The OIG is reviewing the development and implementation of Operation Fast and Furious and similar investigations,” reads the memo, “including matters such as the involvement of Department components and other law enforcement or government entities in the investigations; information sharing issues among the agencies; the guidelines and other internal controls in place and compliance with those controls during the investigations; and the investigative outcomes.”