"The story is one of not covert activity alone," intoned Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, "but of covert foreign policy .... It is a tale of working outside the system and of utilizing irregular channels and private parties accountable to no one, on matters of national security, while ignoring the Congress and even the traditional agencies of executive foreign policy making. The story is both sad and sordid."
Sen. Inouye was speaking not of the biggest scandal of the Obama administration, but of the biggest scandal of the Reagan administration -- the Iran-Contra scandal. In that scandal, the United States sold weapons to parties in Iran in an attempt to free Lebanese-held hostages, then funneled the weapons cash to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. The outcome of that scandal: indictments against the secretary of defense, the national security advisor, the assistant secretary of state, the chief of covert ops at the CIA and several others.
That scandal pales by comparison to the so-called Fast and Furious scandal now bubbling in Washington, D.C. In fall 2009, Eric Holder and the Department of Justice decided on a strategy supposedly designed to combat gun trafficking on the Mexican border. They didn't want the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to seize illegal firearms anymore; instead, they wanted them to give firearms to members of the Mexican cartels.
According to the Congressional report, "ATFs Phoenix Field Division began allowing suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns .... This shift in strategy was known and authorized at the highest levels of the Justice Department." One goal was to identify "straw purchasers" -- legal gun purchasers who hand off those guns to illegal owners. Instead of arresting the straw purchasers and their contacts, however, ATF was to allow the guns to continue to flow to the Mexican drug cartels. "ATF and DOJ leadership were interested in seeing where these guns would ultimately end up," the report states. "ATF would only see these guns again after they turned up at a crime scene."