U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder may show up on “Jeopardy!” one of these days. No, not as a contestant. As an answer. The clue: “He’s the first attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress.” The answer: “Who is Eric Holder?”
That’s surely not the distinction Holder was going for when he took the job. But thanks to the scandal known as Fast and Furious, that’s what he’s best known for: overseeing an operation that put more than 2,000 guns into the hands of a Mexican drug cartel and led to the deaths of hundreds of Mexican citizens and a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Presumably, this appalling mortality rate wasn’t the intention when Fast and Furious was launched in 2009. But we all know what the road to Hell is paved with.
How did it get to this point? Let’s review the basic facts.
The idea was that agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would let U.S.-based “straw purchasers” associated with the Sinaloa drug cartel buy guns from federally licensed gun dealers and allow them to “walk” across the border into Mexico (whose government wasn’t informed). The agency would track the weapons and trace them to high-level cartel operatives.
It doesn’t take a degree in law enforcement to see that the “track and trace” portion of the foregoing description is probably its most key detail. But according to whistleblowers, this simply wasn’t done. Once the guns “walked” across the border, their whereabouts became a total mystery to the ATF. Then the weapons began showing up at crime scenes.
Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez was at one of them. The brother of a former Mexico State Attorney General, Rodriguez turned up on Oct. 21, 2010, in a shallow grave -- the victim of torture. Two Fast and Furious guns were found in the possession of his kidnappers, following a shootout with Mexican police.
Less than two months later, Brian Terry was at another of those crime scenes. The Border Patrol agent, a 40-year-old former Marine, was shot dead during a firefight. Once again, two of the weapons recovered afterwards were discovered to be Fast and Furious firearms.
Shortly after Terry’s death, ATF agents, troubled by the way the operation was spiraling out of control, told Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) about Fast and Furious. They hoped that Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, could put a stop to it.
To do that, Grassley needed information. And that’s when Fast and Furious moved from tragedy to scandal. Because President Obama’s Justice Department, under the watchful eye of Eric Holder, decided not to cooperate, but to cover up.