In a story which gets stranger and stranger, it appears at the Department of Justice may have knowingly allowed thousands of weapons to cross the Mexican border, destined for the hands of drug cartel criminals. Worse, the very guns in question may have been used in the murder of civilians, Mexican law enforcement officials, and possibly two American officials. Over at Pajamas Media, Bob Owens is identifying this scandal as being worse than Iran-Contra.

On December 14, 2010, a special unit of the U.S. Border Patrol came across a group of heavily armed suspects near Rio Rico, Arizona. The Border Patrol team identified themselves as law enforcement officers, at which point the armed men open fire. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was hit in the pelvis by a single bullet and died the next morning. One of the suspects was captured, and two AK-pattern semiautomatic rifles recovered at the scene were identified by serial number as weapons that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) — acting in concert with and with the blessing of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) — allowed weapons smugglers to purchase at U.S. gun shops. The weapons were just two of more than 2,000 firearms that ATF supervisors and the highest levels of DOJ management allowed to be “walked” across the border to narco-terrorist drug cartels in Mexico, in a scandal that promises to be more damning and deadly than Iran-Contra.

The ATF named their operation Fast and Furious, but it will go down in history by its more descriptive title: “Gunwalker.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has released an extensive report (.pdf) on this scandal, but the administration is balking on delivering all of the requested documents. Congressman Darrell Issa, heading up the investigation, has promised more subpoenas if the DOJ continues to drag their feet.

Morton Rosenberg, a specialist in American public law, formerly with the Congressional Research Service, told Congress, “the Department of Justice has the power to string out your investigation, refuse to obey it, and then when it’s time for contempt…say all you can do is bring a civil action which will extend and delay your constitutional ability to enforce your” legislative powers.

Obviously we’ll need a lot more details before this one hits bottom, but the bits which have already been confirmed are disturbing in the extreme. I understand that the process of carrying on a fight against a multinational army of drug dealers and mobsters is difficult, and some risky strategies may have to be employed to stop them, but allowing thousands of lethal weapons to “walk” over the border just to “see where they turn up” sounds like a risk factor far greater than any potential reward. The Obama administration and the Department of Justice have a lot to answer for if this story turns out to be anything near as advertised.