MEXICO CITY - Two military-grade weapons were found alongside the murdered body of U.S. Border Patrol agent in December. The guns were part of an arsenal ATF agents were presumably tracking but lost track of.

Evidently, similar weapons were allowed from Houston and Tampa. About 2000 weapons were allowed illegal movement from Phoenix into drug-cartel hands in an odd, deadly intended entrapment operation to track how the guns moved into organized crime's hands in Mexico, and showed up in crime scenes.

At last week's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, the intention was to trace the guns backwards, to find out which U.S. government officials knew what and when, because agents involved in operation "Fast and Furious,'' as it was known, lost track.

The implausible reason for the operation in the first place is that crime scene investigators in Mexico would know where the weapons originated and in which crime syndicate's hands they ended up -- after the crooks caused mayhem.

The hearing, so far, seems to dwell on the number of weapons (2000, 1800 or 1600), but the more important unasked question is how many innocents were killed, wounded, injured or suffered through use of these weapons, like the murdered border agent.

This is a humanitarian matter. It is entirely plausible that many individuals were victims from those towns and villages that got shot up by organized crime. They could file wrongful-death and other lawsuits against each link in the chain of death and injury.

These types of suits should be brought -- in Mexico, the United States and before international tribunals.

Also there is now good reason to ask U.S. State and Defense Department officials what really was the basis for their reports claiming failed state projections and pronouncements of destabilization before Fast and Furious.

Other concerns need investigation, such as the sale of weapons to cartel front organizations from State Department inventories, and shipments by organized crime from the same airport the DEA used in Texas. All this could be coincidental. But some plausible explanations are needed.

Conspiracy theorists will immediately jump the gun (excuse the pun). Others have ideological axes to grind. There is certainly material for them to chew on. For instance, Mexican authorities have made it public they were not informed about Fast and Furious.

Nor were ATF's own agents in Mexico, nor cooperating agencies like the DEA, FBI, Mexican prosecutors Procuraduría General de la Republica and Agencia Federal de Investigacion and the Policia Federal.

But the possible reason why things fell apart, given in a Washington Post editorial, is the most untenable.

The paper laid out the lame bureaucratic excuse that operation Fast and Furious became a fiasco because ATF's "budget has been repeatedly targeted by (the U.S. Congress) and often did not have the means to follow through."

In other words, high paid government officials could not afford to make a two-cent Skype phone call to alert their own agents about the crooks having guns they could point at them.

For another two pennies they could have alerted the Mexican authorities.

Carlos Canino, head of ATF operations in Mexico, said at the congressional hearings, "I want to make it perfectly clear ... at no time ever did I know that ATF agents were following known (or) suspected gun traffickers ... Never, ever ... would I imagine ... that we were letting that happen."

But it did happen. This caper should not get turned into something different than it is. It is about illegal gun trafficking, bureaucratic denouement, death, injury, mayhem, social instability. It is not about Houdini-like officialdom tricks so the issue disappears.

Keep your eye on the ball for any new disclosures.

That's my two-cents worth.

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at

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