What You Don’t Know About Fast & Furious

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A few days ago I wrote a short post about the Fast & Furious affair. I said I’d followed it only from afar, the whole thing seemed sort of ridiculous, and I never planned to write about it again.

But at the time, I assumed that I at least knew the basics: F&F was a program run by the Phoenix branch of the ATF in which they deliberately allowed “straw” purchasers to buy guns, hoping to later track those guns to the drug lords and other higher-ups who used them to arm their gangs. Then, via rank incompetence, ATF lost track of the guns, one of which was eventually used to kill ATF agent Brian Terry.

But Fortune’s Katherine Eban has a long piece about F&F in this week’s issue, and if she’s even close to right, then everything I thought I knew was wrong. F&F wasn’t a gun walking operation. Nobody deliberately allowed guns to be shipped to Mexican drug lords. Nobody stupidly lost track of the guns. It just didn’t happen.

Eban’s story is too long and detailed to be excerpted, but when I started reading I couldn’t stop. My mouth was hanging open the whole time. The real story, according to Eban, is about weak laws, incompetent prosecutors, juvenile bickering within the ATF’s Phoenix division, a CBS reporter who basically got played, and a craven bunch of managers and politicians who decided to throw the operation under the bus because it was too politically risky to just tell the truth. If you have even the slightest interest in this case — I’m talking to you, Jon Stewart — you need to read Eban’s story. Now.

Here’s the link again: The truth about the Fast and Furious scandal

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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