Yesterday, the Senate voted unanimously (99-0) to block the government from using taxpayer funds for any gun-smuggling sting operation that uses the non-interdiction and minimal surveillance tactics that characterized the controversial Operation Fast and Furious.
The sponsor of the bill U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and former state Attorney General, released a statement following the vote.
“Today’s bipartisan effort is just the first step towards ensuring that such a foolish operation can never be repeated by our own law enforcement. The onus is now on Attorney General Holder to hear not just today’s bipartisan call for answers, but the American people’s demands that Washington be held accountable.”
A summary of the bill reads:
No funds made available under this Act shall be used to allow the knowing transfer of firearms to agents of drug cartels where law enforcement personnel of the United States do not continuously monitor or control such firearms at all times.
The question of whether this bill is real progress or just political posturing has been raised.
The Associated Press caught up with a Justice Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Congress did not ask the department for its views, said, “the amendment essentially reflects DOJ policy.”
The essential aspects of Operation Fast & Furious not only went against DOJ policy, they went against common sense. Giving guns directly to cartel agents with no real means of tracking or monitoring their whereabouts is a recipe for disaster. And, as we’ve learned, this backward way of thwarting gun smuggling is directly responsible for the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
The real problem with Operation Fast & Furious wasn’t the lack of policy; it was defunct and/or corrupt leadership. At the end of the day, it’s people who make the decisions.
The agents within the ATF who were facilitating straw-buyers in the purchase of guns for drug cartels knew what they were doing was wrong (and often voiced concern about the potential ramifications of their dealings) but continued to follow orders, irrespective of existing policy, because the top brass told them to.
While changing policy (or explicating what’s legal and illegal) is a step in the right direction, a change in leadership is what’s needed. The ATF Acting Director who presided over Operation Fast and Furious has resigned. Now, it’s time for those who are responsible for F&F within the DOJ to do the same.