Rep. Darrell Issa’s joke of an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious needs a name.
Operation Plodding and Pointless might do.
The probe into the failed federal effort to track U.S.-purchased guns trafficked to Mexican drug cartels has reached a new height of dudgeon. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives (along with a handful of Democrats) have found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for withholding documents subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Issa.
The committee’s hearings on Fast and Furious have droned on for more than a year now. Yet, to date, no testimony has been taken to address the problem that lay at the heart of the so-called scandal: lax U.S. gun laws that benefit gun shops and do little to stop criminals from getting access to high-powered weaponry.
Issa saw to that when the inquiry began. He laid down the ground rule that no testimony would be admitted that commented on gun-control laws or legislation. As committee chairman, that’s his prerogative. But it’s a transparent tactic.
Instead, Issa has focused his inquisitorial zeal to achieve one aim: to give the Obama administration a black eye.
Fast and Furious was an ill-fated operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The idea was to track multiple sales of weaponry made in the U.S., and then trafficked often through straw buyers to drug cartels. The crux of the inquiry is to find out if agents knowingly allowed guns to reach criminals, when they should have stopped the transfers.
An extensive investigation by Fortune magazine has shredded the case that ATF agents knowingly let weapons “walk” — i.e., fall into criminal hands. And Issa has admitted that he had no evidence that Holder knew that they had walked.
What, then, is the point of Issa’s sideshow? Perhaps to make sure that nobody notices the elephant in the room.
Here’s the context that Issa would rather not have discussed: The U.S. is a virtually overflowing weapons warehouse — always open, always selling. Estimates are that 2,000 guns pass south across the border into Mexico every single day.
Mexico has stringent gun laws. So its criminal element looks to the leniency of its northern neighbor to supply the weapons that have taken more than 45,000 lives since 2006, as the cartels battle for control of distribution paths in Mexico.
The greater Phoenix area alone has 853 federally licensed firearms dealers, according to Fortune’s investigation of Fast and Furious.