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"Fast and Furious" guns at more crime scenes

ATF agent who was killed, Brian Terry

There are new details on the scope of violence surrounding thousands of weapons federal agents allegedly allowed to fall into the hands of criminals. The Justice Department reports "Fast and Furious" guns have been recovered at 11 violent crime scenes in the United States. Those crime scenes, in addition to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Dec. 2010,  puts the total number of U.S. crime scenes connected to "Fast and Furious" at 12.

The number is provided for the first time in a written response to Republicans investigating the gunwalker scandal. In the case, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) say they were ordered to allow thousands of weapons into the hands of suspected gun traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. In its letter, the Justice Department indicates it doesn't have enough information to know how many weapons have been used in violent crimes south of the border in Mexico.

Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) are leading the Congressional probe. Today, they issued a sharp letter accusing the Department of Justice (DOJ) of playing "word games," and reneging on its agreement. The agreement provided that Congress would allow the nomination of the Justice Department's choice for Deputy Attorney General, James Cole, to move forward in June. In return, the Justice Department would give detailed answers to specific questions about the ATF gunwalker scandal. The Justice Department did provide some answers but, according to the Republicans, fell short of providing the full and complete responses promised. For example, the DOJ allegedly failed to provide all available details of the 11 violent crimes. The Justice Department says it's reviewing the letter.

In their letter, Grassley and Issa also say DOJ violated its agreement not to immediately seek possession of interview transcripts of those cooperating with Congress. That was intended to guard the independence of the investigations, and foster candid communications with witnesses. But DOJ has asked Congress to provide that agency and the Inspector General with a transcript of a Congressional staff interview with Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson.

"Since the [Inspector General] is supposed to be conducting an independent inquiry, it seems odd the [Justice] Department would make a document request on behalf of that office," said the Republican's letter. Grassley has, in the past, questioned the ability of the Justice Department's Inspector General to be fully independent in investigating the Justice Department. Attorney General Eric Holder requested the IG investigation after CBS News first broke news on the gunwalker case last February.

President Obama has saidthat neither he nor Holder knew about or approved of the controversial gunwalking operation that spanned 14 months. The idea behind the strategy was apparently to allow guns into the hands of criminals in hopes that seeing where they ended up would help officials take down a major drug cartel.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.