The US Justice Department has finished their probe of the “Fast and Furious” gunrunning program that moved thousands of illegal firearms between the United States and Mexico, clearing Attorney General Eric Holder in the process.
Although Holder has been let off the hook by the Justice Department over the highly criticized program, the DoJ has determined that at least 14 other officials from across the United States were at fault in overseeing the flawed operation.
“We concluded that the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff, the Acting Deputy Attorney General, and the leadership of the Criminal Division failed to alert the Attorney General to significant information about or flaws in those investigations,” the Justice Department determined on Wednesday when they published the results of their probe in a 471-page report.
The program itself, the Department declared, posed a “significant danger to public safety” and was plagued by a “pattern of serious failures” and "a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures” by both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the US attorney’s office in Arizona. Within an hour of the report’s release on Wednesday, two officials singled out in the DoJ probe announced their immediate resignation.
Both former ATF acting head Kenneth E. Melson and Deputy Assistant Atty. Gen. Jason M. Weinstein resigned moments after the report was released.
Also in the aftermath, Senate Judiciary Committee’s Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) lashed out at the report, labeling it as incomplete but agreeing that the operation itself was flawed behind repair.
"Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters,” Sen. Grassley said. “And, we still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General. It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious.”
Earlier this year, the US Congress held Attorney General Holder in contempt for refusing to hand over internal documents on the program that he was subpoenaed to provide. Although lawmakers are currently pursuing a case to disbar Mr. Holder, the Inspector General overseeing this week’s report says the attorney general "did not learn about Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011,” therefore removing him from any liability. The New American and other news outlets covering the unfolding of the investigation have noted, however, that Holder went on the record as early as April 2009 to discuss the program.
On December 14, 2010, one of the firearms tied to the program was used in the slaying of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, an event that helped bring the Fast and Furious program and its flawed operation to the public eye.
"[W]hat began as an important and promising investigation of serious firearms trafficking along the Southwest Border that was developed through the efforts of a short-staffed ATF enforcement group quickly grew into an investigation that lacked realistic objectives, did not have appropriate supervision within ATF or the US Attorney’s Office, and failed to adequately assess the public safety consequences of not stopping or controlling the alarming purchasing activity,” the Justice Department concludes.