As more details about the history of the Justice Department’s “gunwalking” operations become public, former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton may find himself on multiple sides of the story.
As an attorney in private practice, Charlton represents the family of border patrol agent Brian Terry, whose death has ties to the controversial Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation known as Fast and Furious. During that operation, Barack Obama administration DOJ officials allegedly allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico in order to trace them. The probe is now the subject of multiple investigations.
Now, it appears that during Charlton’s tenure as U.S. Attorney in Arizona from 2001 to 2007, DOJ officials used the same controversial tactics along the border, including in Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star reported Thursday.
In an interview with Main Justice Thursday, Charlton said he does not recall the operation or anyone talking about gunwalking. But he added, “I’m responsible for everything that happened in that office.”
The Obama administration is under fire for Fast and Furious, because it allegedly resulted in the selling of at least 2,000 firearms to drug cartel members in Arizona via straw buyers. The ATF then allegedly permitted the guns to be trafficked to Mexico, where the bureau lost track of them. Two guns from the operation were recovered in December at the scene of a shootout between Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits near Rio Rico, Ariz., that resulted in Terry’s death. Other guns sold during the operation have been linked to violent crime scenes in Mexico.
So far, federal prosecutors have opposed efforts to grant crime-victim status to Terry’s family in the prosecution of a suspected gun trafficker. Charlton is representing the family in its effort to have relatives granted crime victim status.
Fast and Furious is the focus of investigations by the DOJ Inspector General and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
But in recent days, information has surfaced that gunwalking also was endorsed by the George W. Bush administration as part of Operation Wide Receiver, an earlier gun-smuggling probe.
That operation was revealed earlier this week by The Associated Press. That probe began in 2006, during Charlton’s tenure as U.S. Attorney in Arizona. Charlton later was one of the U.S. attorneys removed by DOJ officials, in a purge that the IG said was politically motivated.
Charlton said he does not remember a probe known as Operation Wide Receiver, adding that during his tenure “we had thousands of people arrested.”