WASHINGTON - Today's uncovering of secret multi-agency program for shipping illegal Gibson guitars to Mexican drug cartels left red-faced officials of the U.S. Department of Justice scrambling for an explanation amid angry calls for a Congressional investigation.
"I have ordered all agency personnel to fully cooperate in any Congressional inquiries, including all reasonable document requests, as soon as we can redact them with Sharpie pens and safety scissors," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The secret program came to light early this morning in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, after what was described as a wild battle of the bands between members of the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas, two of Mexico's most notorious and violent drug gangs.
"Usually these guys are armed with Mexican Strats and Squires, Epiphones, small caliber stuff like that," said Pedro Ochoa, 46, an eye witness to the 6-string melee. "This time they were packing the heavy firepower."
The steady barrage of power chords and piercing solo attacks attracted the attention of nearby U.S. Border Patrol agents, who arrived at the scene just as Los Zetas broke into Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song.' By the time the dust had cleared, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Oscar Jimenez was found in a catatonic state of headbanging. He was later flown to the University of Arizona Hospital, where his condition is listed as seriously rawked.
The spandex-clad suspects were able to flee back into Mexico, but not before abandoning their arsenal of axes - the quality of which shocked Border Patrol agents.
"I've been working the border for over 25 years and have never seen a weapons cache like this," said Patrol Supervisor Mike Foreman. "A '53 Goldtop, a Mary Kay Strat, a '59 Black Beauty, Flying V's, a whole armory of SGs. Enough for an entire guitarmy. It's a wonder there weren't any total shreddings."
Suspicions that the U.S. Department of Justice was involved in the case first arose after agents noticed "Property of the U.S. Department of Justice" embossed on the back of each guitar. A trace of the serial numbers confirmed that they were confiscated only days earlier by DoJ agents from the Gibson Guitar Company in Memphis.
Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, Justice Department officials admitted that the guitars were part of a complicated sting program know as "Operation Fast and Fretless," ostensibly designed to stem traffic of illegal guitars and amplifiers between the U.S. and Mexico. The multi-agency program - involving Justice, ICE, TSA, EPA, IRS, FDA, Fish & Wildlife, USDA, and the Bureau of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll - reportedly encourage border area pawn shops to sell the guitars to known drug kingpins.
Justice spokesman Gary Evans said the Nogales incident yesterday showed the program was a success. "By putting American guitars in the hands of Mexican gangs, I think we've proven what we've warned all along - that Mexican gangs have access to American guitars. Hopefully this will lead to sane and sensible guitar controls."
Despite the defense of the program, Darrel Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Heavy Metal Affairs is expected to call hearings soon.
"We need to get to the bottom of this thing before it gets out of hand," said Issa. "We have reports that Justice is also providing Colombian cocaine gangs with Marshall Plexi Amplifiers."