Congressional investigators have concluded that five senior ATF officials, including the special agent-in-charge of the Phoenix Field Office and leading to the Deputy Director’s Office in ATF’s Washington headquarters, are responsible for the Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation. This is according to a statement released by the LA Times on July 30, 2012 who reportedly obtained a copy of the report.
According to The Times, a copy of the report they obtained shows that the investigators said their findings are “the best information available as of now” about the operation that led to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. being found in contempt of Congress last month for failing to turn over documents.
The final report is expected to be released later this week. The report claims investigators also found new evidence that ATF sought to hide crucial information from the Mexican government that proved two firearms recovered at the scene after the brother of a Mexican state attorney general was murdered in Mexico were obtained through the Fast and Furious operation
In the November 2010 slaying in Mexico of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of Patricia Gonzalez, then attorney general for the state of Chihuahua, two of 16 weapons were traced back to Fast and Furious after they were recovered from a shootout with Mexican police.
Ten days later, ATF Agent Tonya English urged Agent Hope MacAllister and their supervisor, David J. Voth, to stay silent. “My thought is not to release any information,” she told them in an email.
When Patricia Gonzalez learned that two of the guns had been obtained under Fast and Furious, she was outraged. “The basic ineptitude of these officials caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims,” she said.
The following month, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a shootout where he was armed with a shotgun loaded with bean-bags against drug cartel members armed with weapons supplied through Fast and Furious. Voth emailed back to English, “Ugh … things will most likely get ugly.”
According to The Times, two additional reports to be released later will deal in more detail with “the devastating failure of supervision and leadership” at the Department of Justice and an “unprecedented obstruction of the [congressional] investigation by the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the attorney general himself.”
The initial report alleges some Justice Department involvement, but finds that Kenneth E. Melson, then acting ATF director, was made into a “scapegoat” after he told Congress that DOJ “were doing more damage control than anything” else once Fast and Furious became public. “My view is that the whole matter of the department’s response in this case was a disaster,” Melson said.
Fast and Furious began in fall 2009 and was stopped after BPA Brian Terry was killed in December 2010. By then, most of the weapons had been lost, and two were recovered at the scene of Brian’s slaying.
The five ATF managers named in the report have since moved to other positions. They have either defended Fast and Furious before Congress or invoked their 5th Amendment Privilege. The Times could not reach any of them for comment. DOJ senior officials, including Eric Holder, have maintained that Washington was never aware of the Fast and Furious operation.
The report, authored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is highly critical of the ATF supervisors.
They cite William Newell, the special agent-in-charge in Phoenix, for “repeatedly risky” management and state during the operation, he “consistently pushed the envelope of permissible investigative techniques.” The report revealed “he had been reprimanded … before for crossing the line, but under a new administration and a new attorney general he reverted back to the use of risky gunwalking tactics.”
Newell’s boss, Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, “rubber stamped critical documents that came across his desk without reading them,” according to the report. “In McMahon’s view it was not his job to ask any questions about what was going on in the field.”
McMahon is also cited for giving “false testimony” to Congress about signing applications for wiretap intercepts in Fast and Furious.
McMahon’s supervisor, Mark Chait, Assistant Director for Field Operations, “played a surprisingly passive role during the operation,” the report states. “He failed to provide oversight that his experience should have dictated and his position required.”
Chait’s superior was Deputy Director William Hoover, who the report said ordered an exit plan to end Fast and Furious but never followed through: “Hoover was derelict in his duty to ensure that public safety was not jeopardized.”
The report then says Melson, a longtime career Justice official, “often stayed above the fray” instead of bringing Fast and Furious to an “end sooner.”
But ATF agents said that they were “hamstrung” by federal prosecutors in Arizona from pursuing criminal charges for illegal gun sales. They report Melson “even offered to travel to Phoenix to write the indictments himself. Still, he never ordered it be shut down.”
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Robert was raised by a 28 year police veteran in Marple Township PA where his parents taught him love and respect for the law and others. Robert served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1980s as a Military Police Officer. After his discharge, he pursued a career as a municipal Police Officer in suburban Philadelphia in Radnor Township. He was involved in an on-duty vehicle accident which caused him to leave law enforcement after 7 years on the force. Robert enrolled in college earning his Associates Degree, Summa Cum Laude, in Paralegal Studies with a minor in Administration of Justice from the Delaware County Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree, Cum Laude, and a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from Widener University in Chester PA and his Juris Doctor from the Widener University School of Law. During Law School, Robert served a clinical internship with the Delaware County (PA) District Attorney’s Office. He currently volunteers his assistance with photography services to the Delaware County Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Foundation and the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. Robert is currently not licensed to practice law and does not intend any information presented to constitute legal advice.