Fast and Furious ‘scandal’ is a GOP hatchet job

Later this week, the Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder is likely to be held in contempt of Congress — the first time in history that this has happened — in a scandal known as Fast and Furious.  Like most people, I didn’t really pay attention to the details of this controversy and just assumed it was yet another Republican election-year shenanigan.  It is, but it is far worse than I ever understood; now a Fortune investigation shows what is really at work.

The man behind this is Darrell Issa, Republican of California, a hatchet man who upon becoming Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced his intention to use the power of subpoena granted by his position to harass the Obama administration.  He was true to his word.  In short, ‘Fast and Furious’ was an operation run by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (known as the ATF and, owing to its responsibility for enforcing gun laws, long demonized by the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group) that tracked gun sales in Arizona, which has the slackest gun controls in the country and borders Mexico so has become a major gun market supplying the drug cartels currently fighting a vicious war in Mexico for control of shipment routes.  The story as generally reported is that the ATF intentionally allowed American firearms to be trafficked, one of which was traced to the killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona in December 2010.

As Katherine Eban documents in her extensive investigation for Fortune, this is not what happened.  Read the whole thing.  But here is the takeaway:

Quite simply, there’s a fundamental misconception at the heart of the Fast and Furious scandal. Nobody disputes that suspected straw purchasers under surveillance by the ATF repeatedly bought guns that eventually fell into criminal hands. Issa and others charge that the ATF intentionally allowed guns to walk as an operational tactic. But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic. They insist they never purposefully allowed guns to be illegally trafficked. Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn.

Indeed, a six-month Fortune investigation reveals that the public case alleging that [ATF agent Dave] Voth and his colleagues walked guns is replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies. Fortune reviewed more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case.

And one further note:

Irony abounds when it comes to the Fast and Furious scandal. But the ultimate irony is this: Republicans who support the National Rifle Association and its attempts to weaken gun laws are lambasting ATF agents for not seizing enough weapons—ones that, in this case, prosecutors deemed to be legal.

 Seriously, the Fortune investigation is worth reading in full.

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