For any of you who haven’t been keeping track of all the craziest scandals in Washington–not the kind where Congressmen send crotch pics or dress up like furries, but the kind where people get killed–the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) ran a program from November 2009 to to January 2011 known as Fast and Furious. In addition to being named after a terrible series of Vin Diesel movies, the program’s crimes include allowing guns from the United States to pass into the hands of, who else, Mexican drug lords. These weapons have been implicated in a number of shootings, including the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

So you’d think the guys at the ATF who ordered Fast and Furious would be finished, right? Their careers completely destroyed and possibly facing prison time?

Well, that might be the just thing, but government is usually the enemy of justice, not its champion. Here’s what really happened:

The ATF has promoted three key supervisors of a controversial sting operation that allowed firearms to be illegally trafficked across the U.S. border into Mexico.

All three have been heavily criticized for pushing the program forward even as it became apparent that it was out of control. At least 2,000 guns were lost and many turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and two at the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.

The three supervisors have been given new management positions at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. They are William G. McMahon, who was the ATF’s deputy director of operations in the West, where the illegal trafficking program was focused, and William D. Newell and David Voth, both field supervisors who oversaw the program out of the agency’s Phoenix office.

This illustrates one of the many reasons the government fails so consistently and so thoroughly. Everyone accepts a CYA mentality, whenever someone screws up royally, his superiors have to pretend that all the screw ups responsible are actually super competent and fete them with promotions and awards. Remember when President Bush honored George Tenet and Paul Bremer with the Presidential Medal of Freedom after Tenet told us the case for Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction was a “slam dunk” and Bremer horribly mismanaged the early days of Iraq’s occupation? That wasn’t an isolated incident. It’s a pervasive feature of government: pretend your mistakes are actually accomplishments. Even if no one believes you, you might be able to say it enough to convince yourself.

Story via Radley Balko.