Fortune magazine released a six-month investigative report in Operation Fast and Furious. Here’s a timeline based on that report and other sources.
—1993-2005: ATF reputation suffers in high-profile cases.
—October 31, 2009: Operation Fast and Furious is launched.
—December 2009: David Voth heads Phoenix Group VII, which lacked funding, to stop guns from going to going to Mexico criminals.
—January 5, 2010: In Phoenix, assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley tells agents they lack probable cause for arrests as multiple long gun purchases are legal in Arizona. He suggests a wiretap. Voth later writes a briefing paper stating strategy “to allow the transfer of firearms”—because that is legal.
—January 18, 2010: James Avila, a drug user and transient, purchases three WASR-10 rifles. ATF is notified over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, so agents lose the chance to seize them, but input the serial numbers in the gun database. These are the guns that are found at the Brian Terry shootout.
—March 5, 2010: The wiretap request languishes. Voth meets with ATF bosses and Justice Department officials, who approve strategy. Agents, including Dodson, complain about working weekends. Voth sends email clamping down on “petty arguing” and demands people “pull together” to work on wire.
—April 13, 2010: While Voth is on leave, Dodson opens an independent case into Isaiah Fernandez and tapes a straw purchaser’s conversation with the suspected gun runner without prosecutorial approval. A month later, Voth learns of Dodson’s plans to walk guns. He claims he refused to approve, but Voth’s supervisor approves on May 28.
—June 1, 2010: In an operation separate from Fast and Furious, Dodson goes undercover and sells guns to Fernandez. He leaves on vacation “without interdicting the guns.” The guns get lost, the case closes, and Fernandez escapes charges.
—June 4, 2010: The Justice Department’s letter to Senator Grassley denies Fast and Furious allows gun walking. Grassley sends case reports as proof with names redacted; the case involves Dodson and Fernandez, which is not part of Fast and Furious.
—July 2010: ATF agents submit a list of 20 suspects (including Jamie Avila) who had purchased 2,000 guns to U.S. Attorney’s office. They meet with prosecutors on Aug. 17 and again on Sept. 17, asking for indictments.
—Dec. 14, 2010: Border agent Brian Terry killed in gunfight with five men believed to belong to a Mexican drug cartel. Prosecutors then issue indictments, and Voth’s agents arrest Avila within 24 hours. He is indicted, along with 19 suspects, on Jan. 19.
—February 2011: Agent John Dodson of the Phoenix Group VII alleges “walking guns” was a policy. Fortune paints CBS’s coverage as skewed.
—June 2011: Darrell Issa heads hearings on Operation Fast and Furious. Investigation uncovers that gunrunning suspects were actually paid FBI informants.
—June 28, 2012: Eric Holder is held in contempt of Congress.