When Brian Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent, patrolled Peck Canyon, Arizona, on a cold December evening in 2010, he could have scarcely imagined the violence that would unfold and the earth-shaking impact it would have on the upperechelons of the federal government.
As he and his colleagues walked through the area, 18 km from the Mexican border, they came under fire from gunmen, leading, tragically, to the killing of Terry.
Though four out of the five suspects on the scene were arrested, it was the discovery of two rifles nearby that sent shockwaves through the law enforcement community. Both weapons were traced back to a sting operation sponsored by none other than the U.S. government — a gun-walking scheme called “Fast and Furious”.
Since then, the practice of gun-walking — the strategy of knowingly allowing firearms, often numbering in the thousands, to “walk” or be bought by suspected arms traffickers usually on the rolls of Mexican drug cartels — has come under fire. In particular the House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee sought to pin blame for the crisis on Attorney General Eric Holder.
This week, the Congress was again gripped by angst over the Obama administration’s failure to halt suspected gun smugglers from purchasing close to 2000 weapons directly from undercover agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Most of criticism on the Capitol Hill came after a report and testimony by the U.S. Justice Department’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, who “issued a scathing critique of federal officials for their handling of the botched gun-trafficking case... but essentially exonerated” Mr. Holder, according to reports.
While Mr. Horowitz said that “There needs to be supervision; there needs to be oversight,” and law enforcement operations of this sort had to be referred at the start to “the highest levels” of the Department, he added, “We found no evidence that the Attorney-General was aware” of Operation Fast and Furious.