Veteran Cops Recognize 'Fast and Furious' as a Foolhardy Idea

But once a straw purchaser leaves the store with his cargo of guns, we have no hope of tracking those weapons beyond the point where that car first leaves our view. Surveillance is a tricky business. Cops following criminals can and do lose them in traffic, even when sophisticated equipment like GPS trackers and aircraft are used. A group of cops might have every confidence of success as they follow a suspect in whose car they have planted a GPS device. Add to the scenario a helicopter or airplane equipped with a camera and the means to monitor the GPS device and you have the ingredients for what should be a foolproof surveillance operation. And then the unexpected happens. It always happens.

You follow the car to a shopping mall with an indoor parking lot, which defeats both the GPS device and the aircraft as the satellite signal and visual contact are lost. You scramble into the parking lot to look for the car, but the structure is large and has several floors, making it impossible to do a thorough search as quickly as is required. And it never fails that when you’re following a green Toyota, dozens of similar cars will appear as if by magic to confuse you. If you’re lucky enough to find the car, how do you then know if the guns that you saw being placed in the trunk outside the gun store are still there?

You assume they are, and you then manage to follow the straw purchaser from the mall to his home, where he parks the car in an enclosed garage. Did he leave the guns in the trunk or did he take them inside to be picked up by someone else? Now every person who visits the home has to be suspected of carrying away one or more of the weapons you hoped to follow. How many people, how many GPS devices, how many helicopters and airplanes, can you commit to surveillance so as to make this happen? And even if you’re lucky enough to maintain your surveillance on the guns through all of this, what happens when you follow them to the Mexican border? Can you trust the authorities on the other side to do their part in the investigation?

There is only one way to track a weapon after it’s left the seller’s hands, and that’s to wait for it to turn up at a crime scene or in the pocket of someone so unlucky as to be caught with it during a traffic stop. I suspect none of this entered the minds of those who, from the safety and comfort of their offices, hatched Operation Fast and Furious.

Sometimes what appears to be stupidity and incompetence is exactly that. All that remains to be seen is how far into the federal law enforcement apparatus that stupidity and incompetence reached. Anyone who allowed this to happen has no business remaining in law enforcement. Let the heads start rolling.