Our Opinion: Accounting needed to prevent recurrence of botched sting

News Tribune editorial

Weapons sold in a government sting operation are missing, and a thorough accounting is necessary to prevent a recurrence.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed intermediaries for drug cartels to buy thousand of weapons from Arizona gun shops as part of a 2009 trafficking investigation.

Recently, we learned the bureau has lost track of nearly three-quarters — 1,400 of 2,000 — of those weapons.

The revelation came to light after some of the guns were recovered from crime scenes in Mexico, where rival drug cartels are torturing and killing each other, and bystanders, in an ongoing slaughter.

Ten Arizona sheriffs joined last week in assailing the Obama administration for the botched operation.

“We are here to defend America, whether it’s beyond the border or any place north where the tentacles of these cartels reach into our communities across this nation every single day,” said Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever. “And for our own government to be complicit in helping them conduct that business is offensive to us.”

On Sunday, the chairman of the House oversight panel indicated he might subpoena administration officials to testify about the missing weapons.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., also suggested Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the operation earlier than he has acknowledged.

Holder countered by accusing Republicans of political posturing.

Personal and partisan bickering must not divert our attention from getting to the bottom of this fouled-up operation, known as “Fast and Furious.”

Instead of weakening drug cartels, “Fast and Furious” apparently has armed them with additional firepower to intensify the crime wave and killing spree that is terrorizing Mexico and spreading across the border.

Issa said: “Congress is well along the way of investigating this operation to find out what went wrong, who knew it and what we have to do in the future to make sure it can’t happen again.”

We urge Congress to maintain focus on those priorities.

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