"Fast and Furious" Report Pegs Phoenix ATF Office, U.S. Attorney's Office of Arizona

The Justice Department's inspector general has released the agency's novel-length report on the "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal, which mostly calls out the ATF's Phoenix office and the U.S. Attorney's Office of Arizona for the botched operation.

Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement on the report, pretty much saying I told ya so.

See also:
-ATF Officials Formerly in Phoenix Reportedly Blamed (Yet Again) in Gunwalking Scandal
-Top ATF Officials in Phoenix Replaced in Wake of "Gunwalking" Scandal
-"Fast and Furious" Guns Tracked to More Violent Crimes in Arizona

"I have reviewed the Office of the Inspector General's report on Operation Fast and Furious and the key conclusions are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now," the statement says. "The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006; The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and The Department's leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it."

The report has pretty much the whole saga in it, starting with the similar Bush-era program called "Operation Wide Receiver," and goes through all the congressional hearings that ensued after the public discovery of "Fast and the Furious" and related issues.

In addressing who's responsible for the strategy, the report mostly blames both the ATF and the U.S. Attorney's Office here, but other supervisors and people involved are directly called out too. It doesn't go as high up as Holder, according to this report, which Holder made sure to point out in his statement.

That said, here's how the operations were supposed to go, according to the report:

Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious sought to identify the higher reaches of firearms trafficking networks by deferring any overt enforcement action against the individual straw purchasers - such as making arrests or seizing firearms - even when there was sufficient evidence to do so. Underlying this strategy was the belief that by conducting physical and electronic surveillance of the subjects, as well as collecting documentary evidence of their activities, the agents would learn how the firearms were being purchased and transported to Mexico. Each investigation also had aspirations of identifying and prosecuting the cartel leaders in Mexico ultimately responsible for the trafficking.
Of course, that didn't happen.

From late 2009 through 2010, the ATF's "subjects" in the "Fast and Furious" operation bought a grand total of 1,961 firearms, and by February 2012, 710 of those were recovered. Meanwhile, some of the guns were implicated in crimes -- like when a pair of weapons linked to the operation were found at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

While the report says there didn't appear to be anything malicious going on, ATF's Phoenix office and the U.S. Attorney's Office royally screwed things up.

"ATF's Phoenix Field Division, together with the U.S. Attorney's Office, bore primary responsibility for the conduct of Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious," the report says. "While we found no evidence that the agents responsible for the cases had improper motives or were trying to accomplish anything other than dismantling a dangerous firearms trafficking organization, we concluded that the conduct and supervision of the investigations was significantly flawed."

The ATF office in Phoenix is where the "Fast and Furious" plan was cooked up, and the report notes on several occasions that several federal prosecutors were on-board with the "build the investigation" plan.

That said, the report also calls out individuals involved in both "Operation Wide Receiver" and "Fast and Furious." As previously reported, then-agent in charge Bill Newell, supervisor Dave Voth, and case agent Hope MacAllister were each called out for "individual performance issues." Former assistant special agent in charge George Gillett is named too. Their roles in the operation vary, but are detailed at length in the report.

The lead -- and only -- prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, is also noted in the section on "individual performance issues," as is his immediate supervisor, as well as the former head of Arizona's U.S. Attorney's Office, Dennis Burke.

Several ATF supervisors, including the former acting director Kenneth Melson, were also pegged for not knowing what the hell was going on in the Phoenix field office.

A few employees from the Attorney General's Office were also called out for not really putting the pieces together of what was going on, including Holder's then-deputy chief of staff Monty Wilkinson, who failed to inform Holder about the origin of the guns left at Terry's murder scene.

Holder's statement says that based on this report, Melson has retired from the ATF, effective immediately, and that he has accepted resignation Deputy Assistant Attorney General Weinstein -- who, according to the report, knew of "Fast and Furious," but didn't quite know what the ATF was doing in the operation.

According to Holder's statement, the rest of the people named above -- including a few people called out for their roles in "Operation Wide Receiver" --  "have been referred to the appropriate entities for review and consideration of potential personnel actions."

The statement says the Attorney General's Office can't say anything else about the "potential personnel actions" due to privacy laws.

And once again, Holder says he had nothing to do with it.

"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," his statement says. "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."

The approximately 500-page Justice Department OIG report can be found here.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley