The title 'Fast and Furious' has come to mean more than the popular street-racing movie. It's now synonymous with a scandal that implicates the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives (ATF) in a world of “rivalry, murder and political bloodlust." Operation Fast and Furious alleges that the ATF deliberately “walked guns” into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The case has become so controversial that last Friday, House Republicans won a historic fight to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
But following a six-month investigation, an article by Katherine Eban in Fortune revealed that many of the allegations brought by accusers against the ATF are unfounded.
"But five law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic," Eban wrote. "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."
Eban found that ATF agents were fighting for the authority to arrest buyers of large quantities of legally purchased firearms in Arizona. "What I did find was a protracted battle between the ATF agents and prosecutors over what constituted probable cause to seize the weapons in question," Eben says.
The report comes at a time when the issue is becoming highly politicized. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa has spearheaded the GOP's demand for documents that detail the operation. Eban says that politics is at the root of why Attorney General Holder has not defended himself and the federal government with the findings of this article.
"The last thing the Obama administration wanted was a debate over gun control in the run-up to a presidential election," Eban says. "My sources were telling me that what the administration wanted to do was to basically hold this down in Phoenix. If there was going to be a firestorm of blame, then say mistakes were made at the Phoenix level, whether by prosecutors at the Justice Department or ATF agents in Phoenix, and basically protect political appointees in Washington."