In an Arizona drug bust last month the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration confiscated more than drugs. Federal agents accidentally came upon two giant garbage cans filled with assault rifles, and they just uncovered some of those guns that had been in the hands of the drug runners once belonged to their brother agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The federal drug agents discovered the AK-47-type assault rifles wrapped in cellophane and hidden inside two giant trash barrels. Agents believe the confiscated weapons were heading to drug cartels in Mexico. Problem is, a serial number on at least one of the weapons traces back to the ATF.
It was known as the "Fast and Furious" program -- a controversial gunrunning sting where the ATF allowed its own assault weapons to be sold on the streets. The hope was to track the guns as they passed through the hands of straw buyers and middle-men. The idea was to gain intelligence and take down a big-time Mexican cartel.
Even some of the most experienced agents inside the ATF were uncomfortable with the idea -- especially after hundreds of the rifles disappeared.
Then in December, some of the ATF guns were found in the hands of the bandits who opened fire on Border Patrol agents in Southern Arizona. Agent Brian Terry was killed in the shootout. And the "Fast and Furious" program was publicly exposed.
Until then, not even the DEA knew about the gun operation. Now, sources told CBS 5 News the DEA is refusing to turn over the cache of weapons from its bust to the ATF.
But an ATF agency spokesman dismisses any tug of war with the DEA, telling CBS 5, "We play well together."
Even so, the entire operation is under fire. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the inspector general is investigating. "We cannot have a situation where guns are allowed to walk," Holder said.
Congress wants answers, too. Sources said a gun store in Glendale -- the Lone Wolf Trading Company -- cooperated with the ATF and sold weapons to suspects. A store spokesman told CBS 5 News that every employee is "under a congressional subpoena," and unable to comment.
Sources told CBS 5 this is all part of a sealed federal investigation.
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