Officials at the Department of Justice are in “panic mode,” according to multiple sources, as word spreads that congressional testimony next week will paint a bleak and humiliating picture of Operation Fast and Furious, the botched undercover operation that left a trail of blood from Mexico to Washington, D.C.

The operation was supposed to stem the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexico by allowing so-called straw buyers to purchase guns legally in the U.S. and later sell them in Mexico, usually to drug cartels.

Instead, ATF documents show that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms knowingly and deliberately flooded Mexico with assault rifles. Their intent was to expose the entire smuggling organization, from top to bottom, but the operation spun out of control and supervisors refused pleas from field agents to stop it.

The first witness in Wednesday’s hearing was Sen. Charles Grassley, who described what his investigative team learned from four months of interviews and thousands of documents. He was followed by three members of Brian Terry’s family, three ATF agents and Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, who only months ago insisted the agency did not let guns go south to Mexico, a claim contradicted by field agents in Group 7, the actual agents who ran the operation in Phoenix.

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