ATF and US Attorneys at fault in Fast and Furious scandal
August 1st 2012 · 17 Comments
A new Congressional report hoists blame on five ATF agents and, three U.S. attorneys for the “Fast and Furious” gunwalking operation that led to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, ICE Agent Jamie Zapata and hundreds of Mexican nationals. The report concludes agency supervisors failed to reign in the reckless operation, yet none of the agents named in the congressional report have been fired for their roles in the botched gunwalking program that allowed high-powered weapons, purchased with taxpayer stimulus money, to fall into the hands of ruthless drug cartels.
The new report comes 18 months after Agent Terry’s murder and a month after Congress voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not providing thousands of documents related to the investigation.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco and Firearm and Explosives (ATF) agents named in the report include, (then) Acting Director Kenneth Melson, Phoenix field office Agent Bill Newell, Deputy Director William Hoover, Deputy Assistant Director of the Phoenix office, William McMahon and Assistant Director for field operations Mark Chait. The three attorney’s named were Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the Arizona District, Emory Hurley, assistant U.S. Attorney in Arizona and Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General at Main Justice.
Acting ATF Director Melson suggested the Obama Administration tried to pin responsibility for the wrong-headed gunwalking scheme on him after he secretly testified before Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Melson claims that once details of the gunwalking operation were leaked to members of the media, ATF as well as Department of Justice (DOJ) officials went into damage control mode.
“I think they (ATF/DOJ) were doing more damage control than anything,” Melson said in the Fast and Furious report. “My view is that the whole matter of the department’s response in this case was a disaster.”
Part of Justice’s cover-up strategy was to blame ATF’s Phoenix office and label the gunwalking program as nothing more than a “rogue” operation. However, Holder was forced to reveal at a previous hearing that his office’s premier Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEF) committee approved the flawed program. By admitting that OCDEF played a role in Fast and Furious, Holder essentially turned the spotlight back on his office as the highly coveted program includes a representative from most federal law enforcement agencies, oversees millions of dollars and approves arrests worthy of national headlines.
ATF agents have admitted time and time again that supervisors in the Phoenix office were extremely interested in bringing down the “bad guys” and making “headlines.” They did. In fact, the new report confirms that Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) played a significant role in Fast and Furious, and ICE agents wanted to catch the drug cartels’ “big fish.” The flawed gunwalking program failed to deliver a high-profile arrest, but ICE has escaped Congressional scrutiny?
The scathing report cites many flaws with Fast and Furious and said the program “was marred by missteps, poor judgments and (using) an inherently reckless strategy.” The report also concludes that ATF agents in Phoenix received little guidance from supervisors who seemed content to “rubber stamp” a deeply suspect program that sent more than 2,000 guns directly to drug cartels in Mexico.
The Democrats see things differently. Publically, the Democrat leadership has called the GOP investigation a “witch hunt” and politically motivated. Senate leader Harry Reid (D-NV) even says the Republican investigation lacks merit, is only partisan and hopes to win back the White House by disgracing Attorney General Holder. Yet several Democrats crossed party lines and voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt. Moving forward, House members will push for a contempt (civil lawsuit) proceeding, but said the legal issue will take place after the November elections.
Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies across the country knew the consequences of a program like Fast and Furious were predictable- someone would die. That’s what happens when guns “walk” into the hands of ruthless cartels- they have the propensity to kill people. Regrettably, Operation Fast and Furious successfully did exactly what it was designed to do- make headlines with multiple murders. And to this day no federal workers have been held accountable and fired for the murders of Agents Terry or Zapata, as well as the November 2010 death of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of Patricia Gonzalez, then Attorney General for the state of Chihuahua. Two of the 16 firearms recovered at the police shootout scene in Mexico were later traced to the ill-fated Fast and Furious program.
Previous Fast and Furious story: http://www.examiner.com/article/2-dead-federal-agents-confers-no-privilege-executive-or-otherwise-1
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak
© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
A version of this column originally appeared in www.examiner.com.
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