‘Fast and Furious’ Update

by Robert VerBruggen

At long last, we may have some answers about “Fast and Furious,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ sting operation gone horribly wrong.

In Fast and Furious, the ATF encouraged gun stores along the Mexican border to sell weapons to suspected drug-cartel traffickers. The point was to see where the guns ended up and bring down the cartels; in reality, the main result was the death of a Border Patrol agent at the hands of a trafficker wielding one of the guns.

A House panel just released a preliminary report on the scandal, and here are some findings as explained by Fox News:

— Agents expected to interdict weapons, yet were told to stand down and “just surveil.” Agents therefore did not act. They watched straw purchasers buy hundreds of weapons illegally and transfer those weapons to unknown third parties and stash houses.

— ATF agents complained about the strategy of allowing guns to walk in Operation Fast and Furious. Leadership ignored their concerns. Instead, supervisors told the agents to “get with the program” because senior ATF officials had sanctioned the operation.

— Agents knew that given the large numbers of weapons being trafficked to Mexico, tragic results were a near certainty.

— Operation Fast and Furious contributed to the increasing violence and deaths in Mexico. This result was regarded with giddy optimism by ATF supervisors hoping that guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico would provide the nexus to straw purchasers in Phoenix.

That last finding is sure to anger Mexico, which has so far been muted in its criticism. In a March 2010 memo, ATF says it allowed gun smugglers to buy 359 guns while 958 people died in Mexico the same month. Internally, the agency was “trumpeting up the violence that was occurring as a result of an ATF sanctioned program.”

. . .

The report concludes the operation itself was a failure, saying after 18 months of investigative work, Fast and Furious resulted only in indictments of 20 straw purchasers, buyers who were known before the operation even began.

You can download a PDF of the entire report here.

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