Justice Department releases Fast and Furious report


WASHINGTON – Fourteen federal law enforcement officials – from field agents in Arizona to top managers in the ATF and Department of Justice in Washington – created a “significant danger to public safety” under Operation Fast and Furious and those still employed were referred for possible job discipline for carrying out a gun-walking operation that saturated the Southwest Border with more than 2,000 illegally-purchased firearms.

Less than an hour after those findings were announced Wednesday by the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s office, two of the individuals – Kenneth Melson, the former head of the ATF, and Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. Jacob Weinstein – announced they were stepping down.

The 18-month IG investigation, the only independent review of Fast and Furious, also concluded that Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. had no prior knowledge of Fast and Furious, a position he has long held despite intense criticism from Republican lawmakers who earlier voted him in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over some Justice documents regarding Fast and Furious.

The IG determined that ATF agents and federal prosecutors had enough evidence to arrest and charge Jaime Avila, a Phoenix gun smuggler, months before U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010. Two of the weapons Avila illegally purchased were recovered at his murder scene.

Fast and Furious, said IG Michael E. Horowitz, was implemented by ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office without adequate regard for the risk it posed to public safety in the United States and Mexico.” He said that while officials permitted illegal gun purchases hoping they could track the weapons to top Mexican drug cartel leaders, instead It was a “risky strategy without adequately taking into account the significant danger to public safety that it created.”

Holder said the job performances of the officials criticized in the report would be reviewed with the “consideration of potential personnel actions.” He declined to elaborate, citing privacy restrictions.

The attorney general also fired back at “unsubstantiated conclusions” by Republican lawmakers and other conservatives who for nearly two years have raised allegations that Holder and possibly some Obama White House officials not only were aware of the unusual Fast and Furious tactics but condoned them.

“It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations,” he said, “accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion.”

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