Re­port: Jus­tice fail­ures at the top ig­nored

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JERRY SEPER

The Jus­tice Depart­ment has yet to con­front wide­spread man­age­ment fail­ures in the botched Fast and Fu­ri­ous gun­run­ning in­ves­ti­ga­tion or to or­der op­er­a­tional changes that would pre­vent fu­ture “dis­as­ters” from oc­cur­ring, two se­nior Repub­li­can law­mak­ers who first ques­tioned the fed­eral probe said Oct. 29.

Sen. Chuck Grass­ley of Iowa, rank­ing mem­ber of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, and Rep. Dar­rell E. Issa of Cal­i­for­nia, chair­man of the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee, said the Jus­tice Depart­ment had taken only “lim­ited ac­tion” against lower-level man­agers.

“Of­fi­cials in the Jus­tice Depart­ment saw any num­ber of warn­ings and some even had the gun-walk­ing in­for­ma­tion right in front of them, yet noth­ing was done to stop it,” Mr. Grass­ley said. “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,” he said.

Their con­cerns are out­lined in a re­port is­sued Oct. 29 that con­cludes that the Fast and Fu­ri­ous op­er­a­tion was not a strictly lo­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­ceived by a rogue Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives’ of­fice in Phoenix, but rather the “prod­uct of a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy cre­ated at the high­est lev­els of the Jus­tice Depart­ment aimed at iden­ti­fy­ing the lead­ers of a ma­jor gun traf­fick­ing ring.”

The re­port says this strat­egy, along with in­sti­tu­tional in­er­tia, led to the ge­n­e­sis, im­ple­men­ta­tion and year­long du­ra­tion of Fast and Fu­ri­ous.

Though many se­nior Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials were keenly aware of Fast and Fu­ri­ous, the re­port said no one ques­tioned the op­er­a­tion. The re­port says no one or­dered that Fast and Fu­ri­ous be shut down; in­stead, se­nior depart­ment of­fi­cials let it continue to grow.

“Thus far, the depart­ment has failed to rep­ri­mand any se­nior depart­ment of­fi­cials for their ac­tions — or lack thereof — dur­ing Fast and Fu­ri­ous,” the re­port says. “In fact, sev­eral have re­ceived pro­mo­tions. The man­age­ment cul­ture of the depart­ment must change to pre­vent such a deadly op­er­a­tion from oc­cur­ring again. Time is of the essence. Change must be­gin now.”

Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials were not avail­able for com­ment.

Mr. Issa noted that he and Mr. Grass­ley is­sued a pre­lim­i­nary re­port in July chron­i­cling the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s man­age­ment fail­ures in Fast and Fu­ri­ous , specif­i­cally find­ing fault with five se­nior depart­ment of­fi­cials for fail­ing to iden­tify red flags in­di­cat­ing reck­less tac­tics.

The ATF’s Fast and Fu­ri­ous op­er­a­tion saw more than 2,000 weapons — in­clud­ing semi-au­to­matic as­sault ri­fles — “walked” to drug smug­glers in Mex­ico and con­trib­uted to the deaths of U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol Agent Brian A. Terry and an un­known num­ber of Mex­i­can cit­i­zens.

The failed in­ves­ti­ga­tion also cre­ated what the two law­mak­ers called an “on­go­ing pub­lic safety haz­ard on both sides of the bor­der.”

They said fail­ures within the Jus­tice Depart­ment hap­pened be­cause of “con­scious de­ci­sions to en­cour­age gun deal­ers to sell to known traf­fick­ers and avoid in­ter­dict­ing those weapons or even ques­tion­ing sus­pects, all in the hope that would lead law en­force­ment to car­tel con­nec­tions and a larger case.” No drug smug­glers were ar­rested and more than 1,400 weapons are still miss­ing.

In Septem­ber, the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s of­fice of in­spec­tor gen­eral blamed the Fast and Fu­ri­ous fail­ure on a se­ries of “mis­guided strate­gies,” but found no ev­i­dence that At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. knew of the mis­guided gun­run­ning in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore its pub­lic un­rav­el­ing in Jan­uary 2011.

Deputy As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ja­son Weinstein, who re­viewed Fast and Fu­ri­ous wire­tap ap­pli­ca­tions, re­signed. For­mer Act­ing ATF Di­rec­tor Ken­neth Mel­son, named in the re­port as fail­ing to main­tain “ap­pro­pri­ate over­sight” of Fast and Fu­ri­ous, an­nounced his re­tire­ment. U.S. At­tor­ney Den­nis Burke in Phoenix also re­signed. As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Emory Hur­ley, the lead pros­e­cu­tor in the Fast and Fu­ri­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tion, was re­as­signed from the crim­i­nal division.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“Count­less peo­ple may be mur­dered with these weapons, yet the at­tor­ney gen­eral ap­pears to be let­ting his em­ploy­ees slide by with lit­tle ac­count­abil­ity,” says Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, Iowa Repub­li­can, of the Fast and Fu­ri­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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