The “Fast & Furious” scandal has been a staple of right-wing media, where it is either evidence of a White House dodging accountability (a legitimate argument) or a plot to create chaos in order to pass more stringent gun laws (a bizarre and nonsensical conspiracy theory).
But a recent Fortune investigation (6/27/12) showed that the central claim at the heart of the scandal is flawed. Was there an ATF program to “walk” guns into Mexico in order to catch drug lords on the other side of the border? No. The problem, as the story documented, was that prosecutors were reluctant to bring cases against suspicious gun buyers in Arizona. Why? Weak gun laws that made arrests difficult if not impossible.
But the story, as told by major outlets like CBS Evening News, is one of government incompetence, as agents as a matter of policy passed up chances to arrest criminals.
While the Fortune piece challenges most of the key aspects of the Fast & Furious myth, it lives on in some pretty remarkable ways. Yesterday the Justice Department unsealed indictments in the case most closely connected to Fast & Furious–the murder of U.S. border agent Brian Terry.
But to ABC World News correspondent Pierre Thomas (7/9/12), this development is suspicious, since the government helped kill Terry:
The irony is the United States government is pulling out all the stops to solve a murder it apparently contributed to by putting guns in the hands of Terry’s killers.
This did not happen. As the Fortune story shows, the guns found at the scene of the Terry murder were not “walked” there by the government. A gun merchant notified the ATF of a suspicious buyer; by the time the agents were made aware of this, “the legally purchased guns had been gone for three days. The agents had never seen the weapons and had no chance to seize them.” Today’s Washington Post explained this pretty clearly as well.
It’s a pretty amazing statement from Thomas: The U.S. government gave dangerous criminals guns they could use to shoot at border patrol agents. One would think someone at ABC would want to be careful about making such allegations, especially when there is readily available evidence that this story has been miscast. Then again, the myths around Fast & Furious have been circulated for so long that they seem like established truths.