Operation Fast and Furious grows more outrageous 

Only in Washington, D.C., would juicy promotions be given to three senior career government executives at the center of a dangerously harebrained, officially sanctioned gun-sales sting that, so far, has led to the murder of one U.S. Border Patrol agent and played lethal roles in at least 11 other violent crime scenes in two states.

The scheme — officially dubbed Operation Fast and Furious inside the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — allowed U.S. gun dealers over a 14 month period beginning in November 2009 to sell more than 2,000 firearms, including semi-automatic assault rifles, to buyers known to be linked to Mexican drug cartels. The idea was that the weapons would show up at crime scenes in Mexico, thus enabling Mexican and U.S. officials to link drug kingpins to specific criminal acts.

Instead, the weapons are showing up here in the U.S., where horrendous crimes have been committed. Not one Mexican drug cartel boss has been arrested as a result of Operation Fast and Furious.

The most prominent of the three officials just promoted is William G. McMahon, who was elevated from ATF’s deputy director of operations to deputy assistant director of the ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations. That just happens to be the ATF division that investigates  employee misconduct and other problems. In recent testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee headed by Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Vista, McMahon, who championed Fast and Furious inside ATF, admitted that “the advantage of hindsight, the benefit of a thorough review of the case, clearly points me to things that I would have done differently.”

Also promoted was William Newel, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s office for Arizona and New Mexico. Newel was promoted to special assistant to the assistant director of the agency’s Office of Management in Washington.

The third promotion went to David Voth, formerly the program’s on-the-ground team supervisor, now a branch chief for the ATF’s tobacco division.

These promotions point to one of the most important but least discussed factors driving the explosion of federal spending. The career federal bureaucracy is more than happy to cooperate with professional politicians in Congress and the White House who want bigger government programs.

The politicians get more goodies to hand out to friends, while the bureaucrats get fatter budgets, bigger staffs and more power. The culture of the buddy system insulates them as far as possible from individual accountability for their work.

If one of them is held accountable, then sooner or later all of them could be, so they take care of each other. That is why senior bureaucrats who make horrendous management mistakes such as Operation Fast and Furious — which ultimately cost lives — are so often promoted instead of fired.

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