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The Department of Justice’s Inspector General released his report (500 pages, PDF) on Operation Fast and Furious, the mindbogglingly stupid “sting” operation that fed thousands of high-powered guns to Mexican gun cartels with fatal results. The report savages the DoJ, the Arizona US Attorney’s Office, and the ATF. The traditional falling on swords has begun:
The report says Attorney General Eric Holder was not made aware of potential flaws in the program until February of last year. But the report cites 14 other department employees — including Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer — for potential wrongdoing, recommending the department consider disciplinary action against them.
One congressional source told Fox News the report was “more brutal than was expected.”
The report marked Jason Weinstein, the deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, as the highest-ranking DOJ employee in a position to stop the program. Weinstein, who disputes the findings, is resigning in the wake of the report.
Another official criticized for not asking enough questions about the Furious operation, former ATF acting director Kenneth Melson, retired after the report came down.
The report slams both the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for not taking action. The program caught the attention of Congress and the rest of the country after weapons from Fast and Furious were found at the crime scene of murdered Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
“Indeed, no one responsible for the case at either ATF Phoenix Field Division or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona raised a serious question or concern about the government not taking earlier measures to disrupt a trafficking operation that continued to purchase firearms with impunity for many months,” the report said. “Similarly, we did not find persuasive evidence that any supervisor in Phoenix, at either the U.S. Attorney’s Office or ATF, raised serious questions or concerns about the risk to public safety posed by the continuing firearms purchases or by the delay in arresting individuals who were engaging in the trafficking.
“This failure reflected a significant lack of oversight and urgency by both ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, and a disregard by both for the safety of individuals in the United States and Mexico,” the report said.
The office said it “identified serious failures” by ATF leaders in supervising the operation.
Gee, ya think?
Naturally, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darell Issa (R-CA) has said questions remain, but that the report confirms the committee’s findings of a “felony stupid” operation allowed to run wild. And, also naturally, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the committee, asserts that, while the report shows problems, it exonerates Attorney General Holder.
Eh… Not so fast, congressman. While skimming the report, I kept seeing statements to the effect that warnings and hints of problems about Fast and Furious would reach to Holder’s inner circle, they somehow never reached Eric “Spinning In My Chair” Holder, himself.
Say what? A major firearms trafficking investigation that allows untrackable weapons to cross international borders, said weapons only being recoverable after the deadly fact at crime scenes, and no one told the Attorney General? Really?
Cue Sergeant Schultz.
Like me, Jim Geraghty asks of Eric Holder, which is it, incompetence or lying?
The initial headlines shouted that the IG report had exonerated Holder. That’s one interpretation. But the portrait the report paints of Holder’s management is deeply disturbing. Time and again, information and warnings about the operation’s enormous risks flow from Arizona to Washington … and suddenly, mysteriously, stop just short of Holder.
The inspector general’s report concludes that they can find no evidence Holder knew about Fast and Furious until well after Terry’s death, but … well, the circumstances of Holder being so out of the loop, so in the dark about a major operation certainly appear unusual, perhaps to the point of straining credulity.
A suspicious mind could look at this strange pattern of underling, after deputy, after staffer not mentioning critical information, and information getting all the way to Holder’s office but not being seen by the AG himself, and conclude Holder’s staffers were keeping him in the dark. Would that be to preserve his “plausible deniability”? Another conclusion might be that someone just wasn’t honest with the inspector general.
We now know that the best that can be said about Holder is that he was oblivious to a major, exceptionally dangerous operation going on within his organization. And the most generous interpretation of that is that he had staffed his office with professionals who had epically flawed judgment in deciding what the nation’s top law-enforcement officer needed to know.
He’s just much more genteel about it than I.
This should be nowhere near the end of the investigation; just the end of the beginning. We now have proof from the DoJ’s own Inspector General that Eric Holder and his top deputies are at the minimum intellectually incurious incompetents. They are dunderheads whose at best negligent “oversight” allowed this investigation to continue with no due regard for public safety. Holder, Breuer, and all the rest who had any duty to oversee this operation should resign. The Arizona US Attorney’s Office and the ATF there should be cleaned out and staffed with people who actually have oxygen going to their brains.
But, let’s not forget something that overrides all else in importance: people died because of Operation Fast and Furious. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. ICE Agent Jaime Zapata. Over 300 Mexican civilians, police, and military. All dead, murdered by guns the US government knowingly allowed to slip into cartel hands. Aren’t they and their loved ones owed more than a report from a Washington bureaucrat?
No, this investigation should not end. If Romney becomes president, then his AG should pursue this wherever it leads, including filing criminal charges against “former high officials.” Now that the IG’s report is out, the families of agents Terry and Zapata have every reason to file suit, not only seeking damages but forcing the revelation of more information via discovery. And, while I don’t know Mexican law, their government should file charges for the equivalent of “accessory” or “criminal negligence” against everyone from Holder down to the field operatives and then seek extradition. They owe their people no less.
I’ve seen government scandals before, both petty and large. But never, ever, have I witnessed a scandal that cost lives. This report cannot be the end.
Justice demands it.
RELATED: Other posts on Operation Fast and Furious.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)