Thursday, June 28, 2012

The truth about Fast and Furious

Cenk Uygur does a good job here. (And yes, I know exactly how he feels!) The article he's talking about is this one, from Fortune magazine. Here's the summary:
A Fortune investigation reveals that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. How the world came to believe just the opposite is a tale of rivalry, murder, and political bloodlust.

Get that? An extensive investigation by Fortune magazine has determined that the entire Fast and Furious scandal is just bullshit. It never happened.

Sure, Mexican drug lords bought, and continue to buy, massive amounts of weapons from America, but it's the NRA and its right-wing supporters which have made that possible. Read that again: the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

It's a good read. Here are some excerpts:
Some call it the "parade of ants"; others the "river of iron." The Mexican government has estimated that 2,000 weapons are smuggled daily from the U.S. into Mexico. The ATF is hobbled in its effort to stop this flow. No federal statute outlaws firearms trafficking, so agents must build cases using a patchwork of often toothless laws. For six years, due to Beltway politics, the bureau has gone without permanent leadership, neutered in its fight for funding and authority. The National Rifle Association has so successfully opposed a comprehensive electronic database of gun sales that the ATF's congressional appropriation explicitly prohibits establishing one. [my emphasis] ...

[Dave] Voth's mandate was to stop gun traffickers in Arizona, the state ranked by the gun-control advocacy group Legal Community Against Violence as having the nation's "weakest gun violence prevention laws." Just 200 miles from Mexico, which prohibits gun sales, the Phoenix area is home to 853 federally licensed firearms dealers. Billboards advertise volume discounts for multiple purchases.

Customers can legally buy as many weapons as they want in Arizona as long as they're 18 or older and pass a criminal background check. There are no waiting periods and no need for permits, and buyers are allowed to resell the guns. "In Arizona," says Voth, "someone buying three guns is like someone buying a sandwich."

By 2009 the Sinaloa drug cartel had made Phoenix its gun supermarket and recruited young Americans as its designated shoppers or straw purchasers. Voth and his agents began investigating a group of buyers, some not even old enough to buy beer, whose members were plunking down as much as $20,000 in cash to purchase up to 20 semiautomatics at a time, and then delivering the weapons to others. ...

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. [Republican Darrell] 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 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. Several, including Voth, are speaking out for the first time.

How Fast and Furious reached the headlines is a strange and unsettling saga, one that reveals a lot about politics and media today. It's a story that starts with a grudge, specifically [John] Dodson's anger at Voth. After the terrible murder of agent [Brian] Terry, Dodson made complaints that were then amplified, first by right-wing bloggers, then by CBS. Rep. Issa and other politicians then seized those elements to score points against the Obama administration, which, for its part, has capitulated in an apparent effort to avoid a rhetorical battle over gun control in the run-up to the presidential election.(A Justice Department spokesperson denies this and asserts that the department is not drawing conclusions until the inspector general's report is submitted.)

Yeah, the NRA really has politicians buffaloed, doesn't it? Even Democrats - maybe even especially Democrats - are absolutely terrified at seeming to be in favor of gun control.

And apparently, the Obama administration is so eager to appease their political enemies that they won't fight back even in a case like this. Well, maybe Fox 'News' has them buffaloed, too.
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. ...

Issa's claim that the ATF is using the Fast and Furious scandal to limit gun rights seems, to put it charitably, far-fetched. Meanwhile, Issa and other lawmakers say they want ATF to stanch the deadly tide of guns, widely implicated in the killing of 47,000 Mexicans in the drug-war violence of the past five years. But the public bludgeoning of the ATF has had the opposite effect. From 2010, when Congress began investigating, to 2011, gun seizures by Group VII and the ATF's three other groups in Phoenix dropped by more than 90%.

It's a good article, very detailed and clear. But the Fast and Furious narrative is here to stay. That might have been the case even if the Obama administration had fought back. But it's absolutely infuriating that they won't try to stand up for themselves - even when they're in the right. (Republicans wouldn't even need to have that justification.)

Of course, the Republicans are getting exactly what they want, and so is the NRA - that same NRA that keeps the ATF from being effective in the first place.

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