The murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Mexico last year has touched off a scandal that's now reverberating in Washington.
Members of Congress say that weapons found at the scene of Brian Terry's death have been traced to a federal program that allegedly allowed hundreds of guns to go from the U.S. across the border.
Investigators at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called it Operation Fast and Furious, just like the blockbuster movie. Agents wanted to follow the flow of guns from the U.S. into the hands of deadly Mexican drug cartels. But the only thing that's coming fast and furious now are hostile questions from Congress.
[...]Let me just say that this is a serious abuse of power on the part of the ATF and that the Republicans are perfectly within their oversight duties to investigate this. This story so far has been covered extensively by mainstream conservative blogs, Alex Jones & co., and a few militia types as well. However, there has been a notable lack of attention paid to this scandal by progressives and the left-wing blogosphere. One of the first groups to report on the scandal was the relatively non-partisan Center for Public Integrity, which in the past played a key role in documenting the lies that lead to the Iraq War.
To find out more, congressional investigators have traveled to Arizona, where people allegedly working with drug gangs illegally purchased more than 1,000 guns. Many of those guns were later found at crime scenes on both sides of the border.
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley has been on the trail, too.
"At best, the ATF was careless in authorizing the sale of thousands of guns to straw purchasers," Grassley said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. "At worst, our own government knowingly participated in arming criminals, drug cartels and those who later killed federal agents."
That includes Terry, the U.S. Border Patrol agent who died in a shootout in Mexico last December. Two assault weapons were found nearby. Authorities traced those weapons to illegal gun purchases at a dealership in Arizona.
Issa and Grassley said the transactions were carried out while ATF investigators watched.
No one has been charged in Terry's death — the investigation continues. But the Justice Department's internal watchdog is investigating, too. That probe is focused on the department's own people, and whether they violated their mission to prevent the flow of guns.
Congressional Republicans say more than a dozen whistleblowers have come forward to express their concerns about the danger of Operation Fast and Furious. That includes ATF agents, their supervisors, and even an Arizona gun dealer.
The unnamed dealer sent e-mails to agents in Arizona last year, six months before Terry's death, warning them that he had a bad feeling. In the messages, the dealer said he was worried the guns would make their way to Mexico and be used by "bad guys."
It is obvious that the controversy surrounding this scandal has taken a much more partisan bent since March. It reminds me of Waco, when Republicans investigated another genuine abuse of power that liberals tended to ignore. In my opinion, the American left was far too willing to ignore the Waco tragedy and ridicule those who brought it up as survivalist reactionaries and gun nuts. The GOP may have been hypocrites for harping on the issue while engaging in their own brand of authoritarianism (and conveniently ignoring the fact that the first raid of the Davidian compound happened under Bush 41), but none of that changes the fact that the Waco affair, from the initial flashy raid to the smashing of the compound with armored vehicles, had all the hallmarks of an overly militarized approach by an arrogant law enforcement agencies that made a bad situation a million times worse.
As we have seen in the decades since Waco, the militarization of law enforcement and the increasing use of paramilitary-style raids has resulted in much unnecessary death and destruction. Perhaps we should have been more attentive to the legitimate concerns surrounding Waco to make sure it wan't merely another means of bashing Clinton. Looking back, I wish the US left could have voiced more concern about the government's hostile approach to the Branch Davidians and made memories of the incident more than fodder for Scaife-funded hit men and NWO crackpots.
Now we see the ATF embroiled in another real life scandal, one that is eerily reminiscent of the CIA-Contra-crack controversy. It is probably the case the Issa and company will try to tar Holder as being personally complicit in this and is willing to bend the truth to do so. Regardless, we should treat the underlying story as a serious matter that deserves our attention. If Holder played a significant role in this and/or covered up incriminating facts, he should indeed be held accountable. We shouldn't be hesitant to take on abuses of power for any reason, especially petty partisanship.