This article appears in today's LA Times, detailing new developments in the ATF “Fast and Furious” fiasco, in which ATF agents, in an attempt to uncover a weapons trafficking scheme, provided weapons to traffickers, and then lost track of roughly 1,700 of them: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/16/nation/la-naw-atf-guns-crimes-20110816. Investigations into the “botched operation” have already revealed that sloppy agents lost track of the weapons and that senior ATF officials later lied about who knew about the operation, when officials learned of the operation's failures, and even whether FBI investigations indicated any possible link between weapons lost by ATF agents and weapons used in subsequent violent crimes in the United States.
I have had enough occasion in the past to quote Supreme Court Justice White's in Aguilar v. United States way back in 1964 about the “often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime,” that it has become something of a crutch for me, when talking about the reason the founders required warrants, supported by probable cause. It strikes me that the same language can suggest why the Fast and Furious operation failed so dramatically: as so often happens, law enforcement agents appear to have become so consumed with their attempt to “ferret out” crime that they completely lost sight of the other consequences of what they were doing. In this case, it didn't result in the violation of some individual's rights; here, it has resulted in death. This fiasco serves as another reminder that the framers of the Constitution had a good idea when they decided that police actions should be subjected to neutral oversight.