A second installment of the joint report on Operation Fast and Furious asserting “widespread management failures” by senior Justice Department officials was released today despite a virtual government shutdown due to Hurricane Sandy.
That the report was released just over a week before the presidential election may have little bearing on the election outcome. The more recent scandal over Benghazi is being downplayed by everyone besides Fox News, adding even more credence to assertions that press bias in favor of the Obama administration is giving cover to the president.
The report, released by Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also singles out William Newell, former special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ field office in Phoenix.
Newell, the report says, “had a history of using reckless tactics during his investigations.” But the report adds that Newell “believed he had the full support of senior Justice Department officials in creating and executing Fast and Furious.”
The report also tends to affirm what former Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson told congressional investigators on July 4, 2011. The entre prologue is devoted to Melson’s perspective.
“My view is that the whole matter of the Department's response in this case was a disaster,” Melson told investigators. “That as a result, it came to fruition that the committee staff had to be more aggressive and assertive in attempting to get information from the Department, and as a result, there was more adverse publicity towards ATF than was warranted if we had cooperated from the very beginning. And a lot of what they did was damage control after a while. Their position on things changed weekly and it was hard for us to catch up on it, but it was very clear that they were running the show.”
And he also said this: “I think there could have been accommodations made between the Hill and ATF and DOJ as to how information was shared. It was very frustrating to all of us, and it appears thoroughly to us that the Department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the Department.”
The prologue ends with this observation from the authors: “In the intervening fourteen months since Ken Melson made that statement, the Justice Department has cried foul about the politicization of the congressional inquiry into Fast and Furious. Yet, Melson’s words ring even truer today than they did on Independence Day 2011. The Department’s actions in steering the sinking ship away from political appointees continue to give credence to Melson’s testimony, as the Department has, at all costs, deflected blame away from these political appointees.
“Instead of owning up to its own shortcomings, the Department sought to put the blame on Ken Melson,” the prologue concludes.
Deep in the report, beginning on Page 91, is a dispute over whether Attorney General Eric Holder might have been invited to a press conference announcing the takedown of suspects involved in the Fast and Furious operation.
“The connection between the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and Fast and Furious had drastic effects inside the Department of Justice,” the report reveals. “For the first time since the investigation began over a year earlier, a Fast and Furious straw purchaser was finally arrested. ATF rushed a memorandum to Acting Deputy Attorney General Grindler notifying him of the connection. Perhaps most significantly, Justice Department headquarters abandoned plans to have various Department officials appear at the Fast and Furious take-down press conference in Phoenix, including Attorney General Holder.”
Indictments did not come until after Terry’s slaying.
The report lists several recommendations
- When the Justice Department promulgates a broad new strategy and implements it throughout its components, the Department must create procedures to ensure that implementation of the strategy is monitored, overseen, and supervised adequately.
- Congress vested in senior Department officials the authority to authorize applications for intrusive wire intercepts. These senior officials must review each application thoroughly to ensure such an intrusion is necessary and appropriate. Delegating this authority to subordinates introduces the risk that a careful review will not take place.
- The Justice Department needs to institute clear, written guidelines to outline the appropriate use of cooperating gun dealers during law enforcement investigations. The Department must scrutinize investigations that involve cooperating gun dealers much more closely.
- The official within the Office of the Deputy Attorney General responsible for the ATF portfolio should have ATF-specific experience and training, and must be more than just a liaison. That official should ensure that the Deputy Attorney General is able to provide meaningful supervision of ATF operations.
- The Deputy Attorney General must closely supervise ATF, an agency with a long and troubled history.
- Leadership within the Justice Department must start at the top. Senior managers should foster a culture of accountability within the Department by taking responsibility and accepting consequences for their own lack of initiative and failures.
- Justice Department components look to senior Department officials for leadership and guidance. It is critically important that these senior leaders provide such leadership and guidance. Justice Department officials also must take responsibility for supervising and managing the Department’s component agencies.
- The Justice Department must provide the Terry family with a complete accounting of how it learned about the connection of their son’s death to Operation Fast and Furious. The Department should also apologize for not personally informing the Terry family or publicly admitting the connection sooner.
Issa and Grassley released a joint statement to the press today.
“The report discloses widespread management failures within the hierarchy of the Justice Department,” said Issa. “The Justice Department has yet to evaluate these management issues and implement structural changes to prevent another disaster like Operation Fast and Furious from occurring. Furthermore, the Justice Department has taken limited action against these negligent managers.”
“Officials in the Justice Department saw any number of warnings and some even had the gunwalking information right in front of them, yet nothing was done to stop it. Countless people may be murdered with these weapons, yet the Attorney General appears to be letting his employees slide by with little to no accountability. The Attorney General needs to make changes to ensure that department leadership provides oversight of the agencies they are tasked with supervising, instead of pointing fingers at somebody else,” Grassley observed.
David Codrea, National Gun Rights Examiner
PLEASE SUBSCRIBE by clicking the link above.
PLEASE FORWARD the link to this column to friends and forums.
Follow on Twitter: