That's the suggestion of Forbes magazine. Here's a very short excerpt from their lengthy exposé of the scandal.
For political context we ... need to step back to April 16, 2009 — four or five months before we think Fast and Furious began. On this day President Barack Obama was visiting Mexico. While there he said, “This war is being waged with guns purchased not here but in the United States … more than 90% of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that lay in our shared border.”
This 90% statistic was, to be kind, math so shoddy a third grader should know better.
The figure was based only on guns the Mexican government sent to the ATF for tracing. On April 2, 2009, Fox News reported that, according to statistics from the Mexican government, only about a third of the guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico are submitted to the ATF. The Mexicans, as it turns out, only send guns to the ATF they think came from the U.S. Also, many guns submitted to the ATF by the Mexicans cannot be traced. As a result, the reporters determined that only 17% of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced by the ATF to the U.S.
Now, because President Obama used the made-up 90% figure to push political positions — he was using the statistic to argue that the U.S. needs more gun-control laws — it’s difficult not to sniff politics in what happened next.
Later in 2009 the ATF started the Fast and Furious program by allowing firearms to be smuggled from U.S. gun stores into the arsenals of Mexican criminal gangs. As these guns wouldn’t be seen again until they resurfaced in crimes (there were no tracking devices installed or other means to trace these guns), the only purpose for letting these guns “walk” seems to be to back up the president’s position that guns used in Mexican crimes mostly come from the U.S. (Though the Obama administration insists the gun sales were a part of a new crime-fighting technique.) Also, given the cover up that has ensued since Fast and Furious broke, it doesn’t seem like a conspiratorial leap to conclude that politics mixed with policy to create this crazy program. (But again, administration officials insist this wasn’t about politics.)
Gun storeowners have a right to think it was about politics.
Sometime around September 2009, ATF agents began pressuring gun storeowners in Arizona to sell firearms to people the ATF thought would sell the guns to Mexican cartels and gangs. As gun-storeowners can’t do business without federal licenses, and because the ATF has the authority to shut down a gun store if the establishment’s paperwork isn’t in order, these requests were likely taken as orders. This put the gun storeowners in a catch-22: the law requires them to report suspicious activity and not to sell to people they think are breaking the law, yet the ATF was telling them to sell to suspicious people who wanted to buy AK-47s by the dozen.
Actually, it’s even worse than that: According to court records obtained by Fox News, two of 20 alleged smugglers who were later indicted in the Fast and Furious investigation had felony convictions. As gun-stores must run a person’s name through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before selling that person a firearm, this should have stopped these felons from buying even one measly.22 rifle.
Congressional and law-enforcement sources say this situation suggests the FBI, which operates the NICS system, had to have knowingly allowed the purchases to go forward after consulting with the ATF. Given that we know the director of the FBI was in on at least one early meeting on this issue, this seems logical.
There's much more at the link. I HIGHLY recommend reading the entire article. Not only does it summarize the whole scandal in a very readable way, it shows just how serious it's become. I agree with the author's conclusion:
Given all the politics and the cover up that even the former ATF director says has occurred, could operation Fast and Furious have been about anything other than pushing for new gun-control laws? And given all of this obfuscation from the Obama administration, isn’t this scandal comparable to the cover up that surrounded Watergate?
Yes, that's how bad it is. US law enforcement officers have been killed - murdered - by weapons that another law enforcement agency (the ATF) illegally allowed criminals to buy. Indeed, in at least one case (and probably more), that agency actually bought the guns itself using taxpayer money, in order to give them to the criminals! In Mexico, it's believed that at least 200 deaths, probably more, have resulted from this flood of illegal weapons.
It's time for a special prosecutor to be appointed, and criminal charges to be prepared. If higher-ups don't go to prison for these crimes, I'll reluctantly have to believe that our system of criminal justice is irretrievably flawed.