The Washington Post reconstructs Operation Fast and Furious, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ biggest debacle since the deadly 1993 confrontation in Waco, Tx. What began as a mutiny inside ATF's Phoenix office has blown up into a Capitol Hill donnybrook that is rocking the Justice Department. “This is a mistake that could have and should have been prevented,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Ca.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
ATF insiders say the operation held the promise of becoming one of the agency's best investigations ever. “We have never been up so high in the Sinaloa cartel, the largest and most powerful drug cartel in the world,” said a federal official. “This is an open, ongoing investigation. It is so unfair.” It was a risky strategy. In drug-trafficking cases, investigating agents, by law, cannot let drugs “walk” onto the street. Since gun sales are legal, agents on surveillance are not required to step in and stop weapons from hitting the streets and must have probable cause to make an arrest. The danger in letting guns go is obvious.