Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is furious about an ATF anti-gun-trafficking operation called “Fast and Furious,” launched last year. As Issa sees it, officials showed “felony-stupid bad judgment” in pursuing the policy, and never should have allowed the operation to proceed.

Issa, however, has a fairly dramatic problem to overcome: he was fine with “Fast and Furious” last year.

A chief Republican critic of a controversial U.S. anti-gun-trafficking operation was briefed on ATF’s “Fast and Furious” program last year and did not express any opposition, sources familiar with the classified briefing said Tuesday.

Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), who has repeatedly called for top Justice Department officials to be held accountable for the now-defunct operation, was given highly specific information about it at an April 2010 briefing, the sources said. Members of his staff also attended the session, which Issa and two other Republican congressmen had requested. […]

At the briefing last year, bureau officials laid out for Issa and other members of Congress from both parties details of several ATF investigations, including Fast and Furious, the sources said. For that program, the briefing covered how many guns had been bought by “straw purchasers,” the types of guns and how much money had been spent, said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the briefing was not public.

“All of the things [Issa] has been screaming about, he was briefed on,” said one source familiar with the session.


To be sure, this isn’t a defense of the operation itself, which targeted Mexican gun traffickers, but has been linked to the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent and the illegal export of guns into Mexico. ATF took a risk that appears to have failed.

The point, though, is that Issa thinks he has the credibility to complain incessantly about this. He doesn’t. Issa and his staff received a detailed briefing about the program, and had an opportunity to raise questions or objections. He declined.

Issa now wants officials to be “held accountable” for their “felony-stupid bad judgment.” Perhaps he should start by looking in the mirror.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.