Operation Fast and Exceedingly Foolish

Word out of Washington is that Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, will resign this week over the now-infamous Operation Fast and Furious.

Evidence at congressional hearings last week demonstrated Melson was intimately involved with approving and implementing the controversial program, and he deserves to lose his job. He shouldn’t be alone. Anyone who willfully participated in the planning and implementation of the program — and didn’t holler, “This is crazy!” should join him.

Many rank-and-file ATF agents did try to raise red flags when they were repeatedly told not to arrest suspected gun runners smuggling arms into Mexico under Operation Fast and Furious. Some said they were threatened with firing for voicing their concerns.

The operation allowed so-called straw purchasers to illegally buy large numbers of semi-automatic and high-caliber weapons — the kind preferred by drug cartels — at U.S. gun shops near the Mexican border. The intent reportedly was to let the guns “walk” from the gun shops and be tracked to smugglers dealing with the drug cartels. The hope was that it would lead to the arrests of major arms smugglers and drug lords.

But the key arrests never occurred. Instead, the program simply added more than 2,000 weapons to the deadly drug wars occurring just south of the border, said a report by the House oversight and Government Reform Committee.

It was as if firefighters poured gasoline on a blazing building in hopes it would douse the flames.

Two of the guns allowed to “walk” under the operation were used in the December murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Others are believed to have been used in the killings of innocent Mexican civilians.

The only “furious” part of the program has been the reaction from the government of Mexico, which was not told in advance about the operation — and family and supporters of Agent Terry. More recently, members of Congress from both parties, as well as other officials, have added their voices to the fury over the operation.

Congressman Darrell Issa, the California Republican who heads the Oversight Committee, called the operation “felony stupid.” A more restrained Peter Forcelli, a supervisor at the ATF’s Phoenix branch, termed it “a colossal failure of leadership.”

It is certainly that. Melson and others in the chain of command who approved it deserve to lose their jobs. More than that, they must offer a better justification for Operation Fast and Furious. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could anticipate a program that ordered ATF agents in the field to ignore their duty while allowing thousands of weapons to be smuggled into one of the most dangerous regions in the world would somehow have a positive outcome.


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