The Corner

What Did Mark Chait Know?

Given the revelation that in July 2010, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait inquired about using a Fast and Furious case as an anecdote to support gun control, the question naturally becomes: What did Chait know about Fast and Furious when he asked? Was he innocently looking for examples of crime guns that were bought in bulk, or was he aware that the ATF may have deliberately let the sales in question go through?

According to an August 2011 press release from Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee, in testimony Chait “stated that [he] did not learn about the tactics used in [Fast and Furious] or about the specific concerns of the line agents until earlier this year.” But a look through the House Oversight Committee report suggests otherwise.

This information is footnoted to “E-mail from Mark Chait to William Newell and Daniel Kumor, November 25, 2009”:

The first large recovery of weapons in Mexico linked to Operation Fast and Furious occurred on November 20, 2009, in Naco, Sonora — located on the U.S./Mexico border. All of the 42 weapons recovered in Naco traced back to Operation Fast and Furious straw purchasers. Forty-one of these weapons were AK-47 rifles and one was a Beowulf .50 caliber rifle. Twenty of the weapons in this recovery were reported on multiple sales summaries by ATF, and these weapons had a “time-to-crime” of just one day.

Also, he attended at least one meeting about the problems:

Upon learning of the recoveries, analysts in ATF’s Office of Strategic Information and Intelligence (OSII) in Washington, D.C. attempted to piece together fragments of information to report up the chain of command. According to ATF personnel, every Tuesday morning OSII holds a briefing for the field operations staff. . . . Mark Chait, the Assistant Director for Field Operations, often attends. . . . 

OSII first briefed on Operation Fast and Furious on Tuesday December 8, 2009, including the Naco recovery. The following week, OSII briefed the Mexicali recovery. Subsequent briefings covered other recoveries that had occurred in the United States. The magnitude of the Operation Fast and Furious investigation quickly became apparent to senior ATF officials.

. . . 

Assistant Director Mark Chait . . . attended the January 5, 2010, field-ops briefing led by Intelligence Operations Specialist Lorren Leadmon. At this briefing, the participants expressed concerns about Operation Fast and Furious. . . . OSII had compiled a summary of all of the weapons that could be linked to known straw purchasers under Operation Fast and Furious to date and presented this information to the group. The total number of guns purchased in just two months was 685.

Chait was demoted during the post–Fast and Furious ATF shakeup. He is still listed as the head of the Baltimore field office.

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