The Chicago Tribune: The Fast and Furious fiasco

September 24, 2012 

Excerpted from Friday's Chicago Tribune:

Finally, we learn who shares blame for this debacle: The report names 14 federal law enforcement officials -- from field agents in Arizona to top managers in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Justice Department. Among them: Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department's criminal division, and Gary Grindler, the No. 2 Justice Department official during Fast and Furious. One name notably not on the list -- Attorney General Eric Holder.

Investigators concluded that Holder had no prior knowledge of the program, a position he has long maintained.

Finally, we know, in harrowing detail, just how Fast and Furious unfolded -- and unraveled. What we've learned is that this sting operation started blinking red almost from the moment it began in Phoenix in 2009. The report details "a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment, and management failures" that led to "a significant danger to public safety." The idea -- expanding on a gun-trafficking intercept that started in the George W. Bush administration -- was to allow guns to flow illegally into Mexico. U.S. agents were supposed to track the firearms and snag some Mexican drug cartel bigwigs. But the ATF could not keep up with the torrent of weapons flowing into Mexico from Phoenix-area gun stores once smugglers realized they were not being stopped or questioned by anyone who might object, the report suggests. Astonishingly, the program was largely run by a team of only three agents. They lost track of guns that ultimately were used in crimes on both sides of the border. Two of the guns were recovered after U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona.

If the ATF's architects and bureaucratic protectors had put public safety first, this fiasco wouldn't have occurred.

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