Dennis Burke's Leaking of Fast & Furious Memo in 2011 "Wholly Unbefitting a US Attorney," Says U.S. Inspector General's Office

The day after a high-ranking Justice Department official blasted former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke for lying about one memo leaked to a reporter, Burke committed an even worse leak.

That's just one damning finding in a U.S. Inspector General report about the actions of Burke in the Fast & Furious "gun-walking" scandal.

Burke's second leak to the news media was "particularly egregious" because it appears Burke's intention was to retaliate against a whistle-blowing agent in the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the report states.

See also - Dennis Burke, Former Arizona U.S. Attorney, Accused of Retaliating Against ATF Agent Who Blew Whistle on Fast and Furious Scandal

The report is an ignominious epilogue to Burke's once-promising political career. Burke served as chief of staff to former Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano and was appointed as Arizona U.S. Attorney by President Obama in 2009.

Burke resigned in August 2011 while under investigation for leaking the first memo and just after he was accused of leaking the second.

Burke gave the New York Times a memo about Jaime Avila, a suspect in a straw-buying scheme whose purchased weapons had showed up at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, the report states. When federal investigators called him to ask what he knew about how the Times had obtained the memo from his office, he was "evasive."

From the report:

[Deputy Attorney General James] Cole also said he could not get a clear answer from Burke about whether he had authorized the release of the Avila memorandum or was simply accepting responsibility for it because he was the head of the office. Cole said that he believed Burke was being evasive during this portion of the conversation. Burke subsequently declined to answer further questions from the Department about this incident.

Cole told the OIG that he placed the second telephone call to Burke after he learned that, contrary to what Burke indicated during the first telephone call, Burke was involved with the disclosure of the Avila memorandum. Cole said he called Burke "to chastise him for (a) lying to me and (b) leaking . . ." Cole also told us that he put Burke on notice that such disclosures should not occur.

The very next day, the report says, Burke leaked a memo to Fox News reporter Mike Levine about Agent John Dodson, the ATF whistle-blower. As we mentioned in 2011, Burke was reportedly ticked at Dodson for complaining about tactics that Dodson had once requested to use.

Suspicously, Burke did not leak the memo directly to Levine, who is based in New York City. Burke instead forwarded an email with the attached memo to himself, then emailed that to a personal friend in NYC who gave a hard copy to Levine. The friend, who wasn't identified, declined to speak to the Inspector General's investigators, as did Burke.

Burke did not immediately return a call for comment today.

The Inspector General's Office concluded that Burke violated a policy that required him to keep the Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs in the loop for matters of "national importance."

The matter could end up having an impact on Burke's Arizona law license. Burke's alleged violations will be forwarded by the IG's Office to the Arizona State Bar, which confirmed to New Times today that the issue will be investigated. UPDATE: Rick DeBruhl of the Arizona State Bar called to clarify this sentence after the article was published. The IG's Office hasn't yet forwarded the info, he says. When the State Bar receives the official allegation of improper actions by Burke from that office, the State Bar will add it to an ongoing investigation pertaining to Fast and Furious.

Here's part where the IG rips into Burke:

In sum, we found that Burke violated Department policy when he provided the Dodson memorandum to Fox News reporter Levine without Department approval, and that his explanations for why he did not believe his actions were improper were not credible. We believe this misconduct to be particularly egregious because of Burke's apparent effort to undermine the credibility of Dodson's significant public disclosures about the failures in Operation Fast and Furious. We further believe that the seriousness of Burke's actions are aggravated by the fact that they were taken within days after he told Deputy Attorney General Cole that he took responsibility for his office's earlier unauthorized disclosure of a document to The New York Times, and after Cole put him on notice that such disclosures should not occur. Burke also knew at the time of his disclosure of the Dodson memorandum that he was under investigation by OPR for his conduct in connection with the earlier disclosure to The New York Times. As a high-level Department official, Burke knew his obligations to abide by Department policies and his duty to follow the instructions of the Deputy Attorney General, who was Burke's immediate supervisor.

We found Burke's conduct in disclosing the Dodson memorandum to be inappropriate for a Department employee and wholly unbefitting a U.S. Attorney.

Click here to read the Inspector General's report on Dennis Burke.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern