Too fast too farious



Keywords: mexico,justice department,
Description: SAN DIEGO -- Mission un-accomplished. I thought the goal of federal law enforcement officials was to keep guns out of Mexico and away from drug traffickers, not help them get in. It's time to drive...

SAN DIEGO -- Mission un-accomplished. I thought the goal of federal law enforcement officials was to keep guns out of Mexico and away from drug traffickers, not help them get in.

It's time to drive that point home to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and its acting director, Kenneth Melson. Thanks to reporting by CBS News and its investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, the agency finds itself embroiled in an ugly controversy that might wind up soiling the Justice Department.

It's hard to tell who is more eager to get to the bottom of what CBS is calling the Obama administration's "gunwalker" scandal -- Mexican officials or House Republicans.

Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, subpoenaed Melson to appear before the committee on April 13 and bring with him all memos, emails and other documents related to an ATF operation called "Fast and Furious."

Why a subpoena? Because, according to media accounts, when Issa initially asked for this material in a letter on March 16, his request was ignored.

Focused on the Arizona-Mexico border, the Fast and Furious initiative was part of Operation Gunrunner, which was supposed to stop the flow of weapons from the United States into Mexico.

That's right. Let's not forget that while Americans complain about drugs and immigrants being smuggled north, guns and ammunition are being smuggled south.

According to CBS News, the Fast and Furious program allowed smugglers to "walk" assault rifles and other weapons across the border and into the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in a bungled attempt to track down the cartel's leaders.

Two ATF agents told CBS News about the program. Agent John Dodson was the first to blow the whistle. And then Darren Gil, who was at the time the lead ATF officer in Mexico, told Attkisson that his supervisor in Washington informed him the operation went beyond Melson and had been approved by an official higher up in the Justice Department. Both Dodson and Gil claim they expressed serious concerns that the agency was playing with fire by allowing guns to get into Mexico.

CBS said that no one at the Justice Department would talk to Attkisson about the allegations. One reason could be that the department says there are ongoing investigations into this and other aspects of Operation Gunrunner.

So just to be clear: We have the Justice Department investigating itself on a scandal that could, if the allegations are proved, embarrass or even bring down someone in the department. That's convenient.

This is why a congressional inquiry is necessary. Issa wants to know everything about the Fast and Furious operation. Who created it? Who approved it? Who knew about it?

Those questions build up to an even bigger one: Did one of the guns that were allowed to be taken into Mexico wind up in the hands of the drug trafficker who killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in a December shootout?

According to CBS, the trafficker who was arrested in connection with Terry's murder, Jaime Avila, was being tracked by the ATF and two of the assault rifles involved in the operation were found at the murder scene.

So it's possible that one agency's incompetence contributed to the death of a law enforcement agent in another branch.

The White House is well aware of this story. President Obama was asked about the controversial ATF program recently during an interview with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. While conceding that the initiative might have been a "serious mistake," Obama was quick to distance himself from it -- along with the nation's top law enforcement officer.

"Well, first of all, I did not authorize it," Obama told Ramos. "Eric Holder, the attorney general, did not authorize it. He's been very clear that our policy is to catch gun runners and put 'em into jail."

Not very Trumanesque was it? Apparently, when things go wrong, the buck doesn't stop with Obama. Can this story get any worse? Sure it can, depending on who knew what and how high it goes.

This is why the answers that Darrell Issa is seeking are so important, and why the Obama administration must provide them -- one way or another.






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