[Updated on September 19, 2012] Wednesday's Justice Department inspector general report criticizing 14 ATF and Justice Department employees relates to a months-long investigation into a controversial gun sting that allowed hundreds of weapons to reach violent Mexican drug cartels.
The controversial Operation Fast and Furious, which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began in 2009, came to the public's attention after guns linked to the program were found at the site where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.
Brian A. Terry was fatally shot in the Arizona desert, just north of the Mexico border, on December 14, 2010, after he confronted a group of bandits believed to be preying on illegal immigrants. Nearly three months later, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, announced that two weapons found near the scene were traced to an ATF gun-running operation, later identified as Fast and Furious.
Fast and Furious was intended to build cases against Mexican drug cartels and the smuggling networks supplying them by allowing illegally purchased firearms to go from the United States into Mexico. In the operation, "straw buyers" – people who buy the weapons for others who might not legally be allowed to buy them – were allowed to purchase in Arizona illegally large numbers of weapons, some of which ended up in the hands of cartels in Mexico.
The idea was that once the weapons in Mexico were traced to the straw purchasers, the smuggling network could be brought down. But the ATF lost track of more than 1,000 firearms, and some guns weren't recovered until they turned up at crime scenes, both in Mexico and, as the Terry case illustrated, the United States.
Once the operation was in the public spotlight, Mexican officials and critics in the United States called the operation a failure, saying it exacerbated the longstanding problem of U.S. weapons getting into the hands of Mexican cartels.
Criticism was heaped on the ATF and its parent agency, the Department of Justice. Congressional committees began investigating last year, and Democrats and Republicans have been at odds over who knew what about the operation, and when.
The House Oversight Committee has sought documents that would show why the Justice Department decided to withdraw as inaccurate a February 2011 letter sent to Congress that said top officials had only recently learned about Fast and Furious.
The Justice Department has turned over thousands of documents during the investigation. However, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to turn over materials containing internal deliberations. In June, the Republican-led House voted to hold the attorney general in contempt.
Here is a timeline of some of the events in the Fast and Furious investigation:
The CNN Daily Mash-up is a roundup of some of the most interesting, surprising, curious, poignant or significant items to appear on CNN.com in the past 24 hours. We top it with a collection of the day's most striking photographs from around the world.
Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown writes in a guest column for CNN that her use of the word "vagina" on the state House floor didn't cause an uproar until the male-dominated leadership had time to think about it:
"While there was a scatter of applause from my colleagues, there were no dropped jaws, bulging eyes or fainting. In fact, the only remarkable thing about their response is that there was virtually no response at all."
If you want to say something really awful, say it with this flower.
No one seems to be immune from the foreclosure crisis, including Grandview Baptist Church in Morganton, North Carolina, CNN affiliate WBTV reports. The church was about to be padlocked and taken over by the bank last week when a stranger pulled up in a pickup truck and spoke with the pastor. What happened next has folks around Morganton using the word "miracle," and meaning it. FULL POST
Matt Sandusky, one of Jerry Sandusky's adopted children, has said that he was molested by the former Penn State defensive coordinator, according to a statement from his lawyers.
The allegation comes as Sandusky is awaiting the verdict in his child rape trial. Matt Sandusky, who has defended his father as he faced child rape charges, said through his attorneys Andrew Shubin and Justine Andronici that he met with prosecutors this week to tell them he was a victim for the first time.
"During the trial, Matt Sandusky contacted us and requested our advice and assistance in arranging a meeting with prosecutors to disclose for the first time in this case that he is a victim of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse," Matt Sandusky's lawyers said in a statement obtained by InSession. "At Matt’s request, we immediately arranged a meeting between him and the prosecutors and investigators."
No further details were released about the circumstances surrounding the alleged molestation or when Matt Sandusky claims the abuse occurred.
"This has been an extremely painful experience for Matt and he has asked us to convey his request that the media respect his privacy," a statement from Matt Sandusky's lawyer said. "There will be no further comment at this time."
Sandusky is currently facing accusations of sexual abuse from 10 alleged victims. Sandusky, 68, has pleaded not guilty to charges of child sex abuse over a 15-year period. He faces 48 counts in the trial.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Joe Amendola sought to poke holes in the prosecution's case, pointing to inconsistencies with the testimony of Mike McQueary, a former graduate student and assistant coach who said he saw Sandusky apparently sodomizing a boy in a university shower.
He also reminded jurors of the lack of physical evidence and accused the alleged victims of conspiring for financial gain while blaming the media for what he described as biased coverage.
Lead prosecutor Joseph McGettigan followed Amendola, rebuffing the defense's account of a coordinated action among Sandusky's accusers allegedly bent on financial gain.
"The great thing about conspiracy theories is you just let them go on and on, until they collapse under their own weight," he said.
McGettigan described the former coach as a pedophile who systematically preyed on his victims with a calculated and repeated approach.
"The Commonwealth has overwhelming evidence against Mr. Sandusky," he said.
Federal agents in Minnesota are trying to solve a mystery in hopes of helping some children in a dangerous situation. Agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations are asking for the public's help in identifying a boy they believe to be in his teens seen in a Web-based video.
Asking for help in this way is unusual according to ICE spokesperson Shawn Neudauer.
“Issuing a public plea is an extraordinary step by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations warranted by our belief that there may be young people at risk, without the ability to ask for law enforcement’s help," he said.
The child is thought to be between 13 and 19 and possibly has been in either Minnesota or western Wisconsin in the past 18 to 24 months. Agents think that by identifying the teen they will be able to help at least one other child out of a dangerous situation and possibly more.
People with information can contact ICE/HSI on their tip line at 866-347-2423 or on-line at http://www.ice.gov/tips/
Tropical storm Chris has been upgraded to a hurricane, becoming the first named hurricane of the Atlantic season, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The storm, which is located in the northern Atlantic, has strengthened during the last several hours. Hurricane Chris' maximum sustained winds are now 75 mph. Chris remains no threat to land as it moves northeast at 20 mph.
Hurricane Chris has been named nearly two months earlier than the average first date of a hurricane in the Atlantic which is August 14, according to Dennis Felton with the National Hurricane Center.
This is also only the third time since record keeping began back in the late 1800s that there have been three named storms so early in the season. Normally storms are not officially named until July 11, Felton said.
Prince William has had a busy year.
The Duke of Cambridge celebrated his first anniversary with Catherine Middleton and toasted Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. And on Thursday, he adds another milestone to his list: his 30th birthday.
He's now also legally entitled to half of his mother's inheritance, which was left to him after Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in 1997. His half of the inheritance, according to The Daily Telegraph, would likely be around $15.5 million, with the current currency exchange rate. (What William can buy with that chunk of change)
William has been in the spotlight as the eventual heir to the British throne since early childhood. He's endured his parents' breakup, his mother's death and his own big royal wedding all while the world watched along with him.
The Duke of Cambridge has recently said he and his wife are excited about the prospect of bringing a child into the world.
“I’m just very keen to have a family, and both Catherine and I, you know, are looking forward to having a family in the future," he told ABC's Katie Couric before the Diamond Jubilee.
To celebrate William's big day, we wanted to take a look back at his life. After all, many people would say that he and Catherine have helped the royal family become popular again by making the monarchy more accessible to the public.
Click through the gallery above to see William's evolution from Diana and Charles' lovable young son to the Duke of Cambridge.
More on Prince William:
Commerce Secretary John Bryson has resigned, telling President Obama he's doing so for health reasons, according to a statement obtained by CNN.
Bryson was under investigation for possible felony hit-and-run after allegedly causing two car accidents in California. A Commerce Department spokeswoman said that Bryson, 68, had suffered a seizure when the two accidents occurred Saturday.
Obama has accepted his resignation, according to a statement released by the White House.
His statement in full is below:
Last night I accepted the resignation of John Bryson as Secretary of the Department of Commerce. I want to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to John for his service over the past months, and wish him and his family the very best.
As Secretary, John fought tirelessly for our nation’s businesses and workers, helping to bolster our exports and promote American manufacturing and products at home and abroad. John has proven himself an effective and distinguished leader throughout his career in both the public and private sectors, from his success in the business world to his work leading on issues in the renewable energy industry. I am grateful that he brought that invaluable experience and expertise to my administration, and am pleased that he has agreed to continue supporting our efforts to strengthen the economy and create good jobs by serving as a member of my Export Council going forward.
I am confident that Dr. Rebecca Blank will serve the American people well as Acting Secretary and that the Commerce Department staff will continue their tireless work putting forward policies that help our workers and businesses compete.
Paraguay's president is under pressure after an impeachment vote in the lower chamber of Congress on Thursday, but Fernando Lugo says he will not resign.
Lugo's presidency became endangered when a liberal party that backed him decided to join an opposition party in supporting impeachment.
The impeachment proceedings follow a June 15 incident in which police clashed with landless peasants, resulting in 17 deaths.
The lower chamber voted in favor of impeachment, and the issue will now go before the Paraguayan Senate.FULL STORY
A court handed down a 20-year sentence Thursday for an Indonesian man convicted of helping assemble the bombs that killed more than 200 people in Bali in 2002.
The Jakarta court found Umar Patek, 45, guilty of taking part in premeditated murder and conspiracy to smuggle explosives and firearms for use in terror attacks.
Patek had faced a maximum penalty of death, and the courtroom was packed for the verdict delivered by a panel of five judges.
He stared at the floor and showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He shook the judges' hands and hugged his lawyer before he was escorted to a car waiting in the basement of the courthouse for transportation to a jail on the outskirts of the city.
Patek, who has expressed remorse for his actions, will consider appealing to a higher court, said his lawyer Asludin Hatjani.
Hatjani said he was "very disappointed" by the verdict.
"Umar Patek did what he was accused for because he was under pressure from his seniors, and he failed to convince them to prevent the attacks, although he already tried hard to do so," Hatjani said.
Patek was one of Indonesia's most wanted terrorists, with a $1 million bounty on his head from the U.S. government's Rewards for Justice program.
Three of the masterminds of the Bali bombings - Imam Samudra, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron - were executed in 2008. Patek was the last of the accused to stand trial in Indonesia.
The October 12, 2002, blasts tore apart two nightclubs in Kuta, a town popular with tourists on the Indonesian island of Bali. At the time, the country's police chief called the attack "the worst act of terrorism in the country's history."
Among the dead were 88 Australians and seven Americans.FULL STORY
Norwegian prosecutors have asked that alleged mass killer Anders Breivik be transferred to a psychiatric institutions because they believe he is mentally ill, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office told CNN.
If that does not happen, prosecutors will ask for 21 years of prison for Breivik.
Breivik is on trial on charges of voluntary homicide and committing acts of terror in the July 22, 2011, attacks. He has admitted carrying out an attack on a youth camp on Utoya Island that killed 69 people and a bombing in Oslo that killed eight.FULL STORY
A ship carrying military helicopters to Syria is returning to Russia, but will ultimately deliver the shipment to Syria, Russia announced Thursday.
Jordan, meanwhile, announced that a pilot in the Syrian military who fled with his jet will be granted asylum.
The Russian ship - part of an international row over Russia arming Syria - was forced to turn back after a British company withdrew its insurance coverage due to the nature of the cargo.
In recent days, reports surfaced about the ship. On Thursday, Russia announced it was carrying "Syrian attack helicopters," state-run news agency Ria Novosti reported.FULL STORY
If you're like billionaires Richard Branson or Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, buying an island and claiming it to be your personal paradise is just another way to invest in happiness.
Ellison has bought about 98% of Lana'I, the sixth-largest island in Hawaii. That's 140 square miles of personal getaway, confirmed by Hawaii's governor, but no one's talking about how much it went for just yet. And it just happens to be more than 1,000 times larger than Branson's Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.
The package deal includes two luxury resorts, two golf courses, two clubhouses and 88,000 acres of land, according to a document filed with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. It's also full of gorgeous scenery and pineapples as well. Some residents have said they hope that Ellison, who has a deep love of nature, will give the island an economic lift.
If you could buy any island, which one would it be? What would you do with it, and how would you use it?
The recent health crisis for former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak started when he slipped in a prison bathroom, his attorney told CNN Thursday.
The ousted strongman hurt his neck and developed a blood clot after the fall in Tora prison, attorney Farid El Deeb said.
El Deeb said Mubarak was taken off life-support equipment and his health improved on Wednesday, a day after grim and contradictory news emerged over the 84-year-old man's health.FULL STORY
A day after Makhdoom Shahabuddin was tapped as the ruling party's candidate for prime minister, a trial court in Pakistan issued a warrant for his arrest Thursday, a government official said.
Shahabuddin's name had been linked to a drug scandal when Pakistan's anti-narcotics force began investigating the illegal import in 2010 of the stimulant ephedrine. Shahabuddin, considered a loyalist of President Asif Ali Zardari, served as the health minister at the time.
It was not immediately clear how the arrest warrant would impact Shahabuddin's candidacy and if he would be arrested. The government official who disclosed the development asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media on the record.FULL STORY
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be arrested if he comes out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he is seeking asylum, a Metropolitan Police representative at the scene said Thursday, without giving his name.
Assange was arrested in Britain in 2010 because Swedish authorities want to question him about allegations of rape and sexual molestation. His bail conditions included staying every night at the home of a supporter outside of London.
Two women have accused Assange of sexually assaulting them during an August 2010 visit to Sweden in connection with a WikiLeaks release of internal U.S. military documents. He was arrested in Britain that December and has been fighting extradition ever since, arguing the allegations are retribution for his organization's disclosure of American secrets.
Assange's only further legal recourse would be to apply immediately to the European Court of Human Rights, and his attorneys have vowed to do so. He has said he fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, authorities there could hand him over to the United States, where he then could be prosecuted for his role in the leaking of classified documents.
Assange has not been charged with a crime, but Swedish prosecutors want to question him about allegations of "unlawful coercion and sexual misconduct including rape," according to a Supreme Court document. Ecuador said its decision to consider Assange's asylum request "should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden."
WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, has published some 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, causing embarrassment to the government and others. It also has published hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents relating to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Supreme Court may soon rule on the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law. Once a ruling is issued, CNN.com Live will be there for all the reaction and fallout.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - Aung San Suu Kyi addresses UK Parliament - Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi continues her trip to Britain by speaking before both houses of Parliament.
New documents, audio and video have been released in the case against George Zimmerman who is charged with the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin. Below are updates on statements Zimmerman made to police, made public as part of discovery, which have been released by his defense team.
[Updated at 8:14 a.m. ET] Zimmerman told police that at some point during the exchange with Martin he began hitting his head into the sidewalk.
"When he started doing that, I slid into the grass to try to get out from under him ... I'm still yelling for help," Zimmerman told investigators.
Martin, he said, put his hand over Zimmerman's mouth and nose and told him, "You're going to die tonight."
"When I slid, my jacket and my shirt came up, and when he said, 'You're going to die tonight,' I felt his hand go down my side, and I thought he was going for my firearm, so I grabbed it immediately, and as he banged my head again, I just pulled out my firearm and shot him."
When he did, he said Martin, who had been on top of him, fell away and said, "All right. You got it. You got it."
Zimmerman claimed in the interview he was driving to the grocery store February 26 when he saw Martin walking in his neighborhood. He said he pulled over and called a police non-emergency number "to report a suspicious person."
He noted there had been some burglaries in the area, prompting him to start a neighborhood watch program. He said he had never seen Martin before, and thought it was odd that although it was raining, "he was just walking casually, not like he was trying to get out of the rain."
As he spoke to the dispatcher, he said Martin circled his vehicle, but he "lost visual of him" and got out of the vehicle to find him. The dispatcher, he said, told him "we don't need you to do that," and he was heading back to the vehicle when Martin jumped out, asking him, "What the f-'s your problem?"
He said he told Martin, "I don't have a problem," but the youth replied, "Now you have a problem," and attacked him. He said he fell backward after being punched in the nose, and "he was wailing on my head."
Zimmerman told police he yelled for help repeatedly, and heard one man say he was going to call 911.
"I screamed 'Help me' probably 50 times, as loud as I could," he said.
[Posted at 7:50 a.m. ET] In an initial interview with police following the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman described a life-and-death struggle that began when the youth "jumped out from the bushes."
Zimmerman said Martin punched him repeatedly in the face. "I started screaming for help. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe."
He said Martin "grabbed my head and started hitting it in the sidewalk."
The audio of the Zimmerman's first interview with police investigators was made public late Wednesday as part of the discovery items released by his defense team.
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in Martin's February 26 shooting death. Zimmerman has claimed he shot Martin in self-defense, but Martin's family and civil rights activists from across the country claim that Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, racially profiled Martin and ignored a 911 dispatcher's advice not to follow him.FULL STORY
A profanity-laced video of middle school students verbally abusing a New York bus monitor is sparking an outpouring of support as strangers worldwide rally to her side.
In the video, the students taunt Karen Klein, 68, with a stream of profanity, insults, jeers and physical ridicule.
Some boys demand to know her address, saying they want to come to her house to perform sexual acts and steal from her.
The bullying continues unabated for about 10 minutes in the video, reducing Klein to tears as a giggling student jabs her arm with a book in one instance.
"Oh my God, you're so fat," one says.
Klein, a bus monitor for the Greece Central School District, said she tried her best to disregard the harassment. The students involved attend Greece Athena middle school.FULL STORY
Greece, which has gone without an elected government for 224 days, will swear in a new one Thursday. It will consist of a coalition of three parties - the center-right New Democracy, which placed first in Sunday's vote, Pasok and the Democratic Party of the Left.
The party with the second highest number of votes, the leftist Syriza, which is against austerity measures, has declined to be a part of the government.
New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was sworn in Wednesday as Greece's new prime minister at the presidential mansion after meeting with President Karolos Papoulias, who asked him to form a government.FULL STORY
Closing arguments will begin Thursday in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky after his defense team rested without putting the former assistant football coach on the stand.
After the defense rested Wednesday, the prosecution said it had no further rebuttal witnesses, and the judge scheduled closing arguments to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Defense attorney Joe Amendola had told reporters to "stay tuned" to see whether the former Penn State University defensive coordinator would testify. It was thought his testimony could provide the opening that prosecutors needed to introduce new evidence against the former coach.
Sandusky, 68, has pleaded not guilty to 51 counts related to accusations of child sex abuse against 10 boys over a 15-year period.
The prosecution had called its only rebuttal witness on Tuesday, to counter testimony that raised questions about Sandusky's mental health.FULL STORY