Justice's Inspector General: No Evidence Holder Knew Of Failed Gun-Walking Sting
Update at 2:01 p.m. ET. 14 U.S. Officials Cited For Possible Discipline:
The Justice Department's Inspector General has released the results of an investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosive's failed gun-walking operation known as "Fast and Furious."
The bottom line, reports NBC News, is that the internal watchdog found "no evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder knew of the botched effort to trace the flow of guns to Mexico's drug cartels prior to its public unraveling in January 2011."
Reuters adds that the inspector general does cite 14 U.S. officials, including criminal division chief Lanny Breuer for possible discipline.
Shortly after the report was released, former ATF director Kenneth Melson announced his retirement and former criminal division deputy Jason Weinstein resigned.
As the AP reads it, the report faults the agency for "misguided strategies, errors in judgment and management failures."
We're still sifting through the 512-page report (pdf). We'll add more to this post as work through it.
Update at 2:39 p.m. ET. 'Total Disregard For Public Safety':
Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says this report confirms that Operation Fast and Furious was conducted with "near total disregard for public safety."
The problem, he says in a statement, is that Attorney General Eric Holder has failed to punish those responsible.
He added that many top Justice officials were "singled out for criticism in the report."
"It's time for President Obama to step in and provide accountability for officials at both the Department of Justice and ATF who failed to do their jobs," Issa said. "Attorney General Holder has clearly known about these unacceptable failures yet has failed to take appropriate action for over a year and a half."
Issa and his committee, if you remember, prompted a constitutional showdown when they found Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents about the operation.
Update at 2:30 p.m. ET. Holder Claims Vindication:
In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder says the conclusions of this investigation vindicate him. The conclusions, he said, are consistent with what he and other officials have been saying, including the fact that the "inappropriate strategies" date back to 2006 and that Justice leadership did not know about the operation and they never tried to conceal it from Congress.
"It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations – accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion," Holder said. "I hope today's report acts as a reminder of the dangers of adopting as fact unsubstantiated conclusions before an investigation of the circumstances is completed."
Update at 2:27 p.m. ET. Resignation, Retirement:
NPR's Carrie Johnson sends us this missive on the fallout of the report:
"Former ATF director Kenneth Melson has retired and former criminal division deputy Jason Weinstein resigned Wednesday after a blistering inspector general report referred them for disciplinary action because of serious management failures in the Fast and Furious scandal."
Update at 2:17 p.m. ET. Failures At All Levels:
One thing the report makes clear is that there were failures at all levels in the handling of the gun-walking operation.
Here's a key paragraph from the report:
"Our review of Operation Fast and Furious and related matters revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment, and management failures that permeated ATF Headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona. In this report, we described deficiencies in two operations conducted in ATF's Phoenix Field Division between 2006 and 2010 – Operation Wide Receiver and Operation Fast and Furious. In the course of our review we identified individuals ranging from line agents and prosecutors in Phoenix and Tucson to senior ATF officials in Washington, D.C., who bore a share of responsibility for ATF's knowing failure in both these operations to interdict firearms illegally destined for Mexico, and for doing so without adequately taking into account the danger to public safety that flowed from this risky strategy."
Our Original Post Continues:
The Justice Department's Inspector General may release their investigation into the Fast and Furious scandal as early as this afternoon.
Quoting two lawyers briefed on the case, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports that officials in Arizona and Washington could receive some the blame for the failed gun-walking operation.
Carrie filed this report for our Newscast unit:
"Nearly two years ago in December 2010 U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry died in a firefight with bandits along the border with Mexico. Near his body were two weapons traced to a federal sting operation called "Fast and Furious."
"Agents at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms were trying to build a big gun trafficking case against the Sinaloa drug cartel. But they lost track of as many as 2,000 guns.
"The Justice Department's inspector general has been investigating what went wrong. His report is expected to find fault with the ATF in Arizona and in Washington and also with the U.S. Attorney in Arizona and with Justice Department lawyers who failed to alert their superiors to signs of trouble."
We'll monitor this story and update this post with the latest as we learn it.