Documents point to ATF "gun running" since 2008
A controversial operation in which U.S. agents were allegedly ordered not to intervene as American guns flowed to Mexican gangs may have been going on for many years, reports CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
A photograph obtained by CBS News shows an astonishing display of high-powered weapons put up for suspected Mexican drug cartel gun buyers. It's a rare glimpse into ATF's controversial undercover operations.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allegedly let gun runners walk off with weapons - thousands of them - to see if they'd end up in the hands of the cartels. The Justice Department and ATF have denied it ever happened.
Special Agent John Dodson works in ATF's Phoenix office and has blown the whistle on the controversial strategy, known as letting guns "walk."
Dodson believes there are other ATF operations going on that have done the same thing.
Multiple sources now tell CBS News the questionable tactics were used in more than one operation, and date back as far as 2008 in the Tucson area. One case was called "Wide Receiver."
Sources tell CBS News licensed gun dealers often wanted no part of selling to suspicious characters who could be supplying the cartels.
But, sources say, ATF enlisted the gun dealers as paid Confidential Informants and encouraged them to sell even more.
"ATF has asked me to assist in an official investigation," reads one agreement.
Gun salesmen closed the deals, and ATF watched and listened with recording devices.
Dodson argues that something that should never be done. "A lot people are going to get hurt with those firearms between the time we let them go and the time they're recovered again in a crime."
Sources tell CBS News these ATF operations involved about 450 weapons. Despite the risk, two years later the same strategy was expanded to include thousands of guns.
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