Republican investigators blamed the failures of “Operation Fast and Furious” on five high-ranking officials at ATF in a scathing congressional report issued Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“From the outset, the case was marred by missteps, poor judgments, and an inherently reckless strategy,” the report states.
The 211-page report calls on the Obama administration and Senate to improve leadership at the ATF, which has been without a permanent director for six years.
Among the five held responsible is William Newell, the former special agent-in-charge in Phoenix, who the report says exhibited “repeatedly risky management,” the LA Times reported.
The five ATF managers identified in the report have been moved to other positions, according to the LA Times.
Here’s some excerpts of the report:
“From the outset, the case was marred by missteps, poor judgments, and an inherently reckless strategy. In the summer of 2009, the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. promulgated a ‘Strategy for Combating the Mexican Cartels.’ The new aim was to zero in on the firearms trafficking networks. Agents were advised that ‘merely seizing firearms’ purchased illegally by straw buyers should take a back seat to gathering information in hopes of dismantling entire firearms trafficking networks. To effectuate the new plan, ATF agents in Phoenix convinced local gun dealers to cooperate by supplying ATF with real-time information on the straw purchases, even though ATF knew the buyers were illegally obtaining firearms destined for the Mexican drug cartels. The gun dealers were reassured that ATF was closely monitoring the transactions, and interdicting the weapons. That was false.”
“Shortly after the case began, in December 2009, DEA supplied ATF with extensive information on what would become ATF’s prime target. At that point, ATF should have shut Fast and Furious down, but it failed to recognize the significance of the information the DEA had shared. Instead, ATF continued with its plan to identify all the players in the trafficking network rather than disrupt or deter them through confrontation and arrest. So, hundreds of guns flowed to criminals while two of the trafficking network’s customers, who were its connection to the Mexican drug cartels, were already known to U.S. law enforcement. Both the FBI and DEA had key information on the network’s connection drug cartels in Mexico by the time ATF’s wiretaps were approved.”
“Though Attorney General Holder testified that the case was ‘fundamentally flawed’ and President Obama has stated that mistakes may have been made, all responsible ATF officials still work either at the ATF or within the Department of Justice. The two men most closely identified with the failed strategy of the case and who bear the brunt of responsibility for supervising the operation on a day-to-day basis, William Newell and David Voth, have both kept their jobs at ATF.”
“This report is not intended to imply in any way that the mistakes and responsibility for Operation Fast and Furious are limited to ATF and other federal officials who were based in Arizona. While mistakes by figures in Arizona were immense, the joint Congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious will issue a second report detailing the mistakes and culpability of Department of Justice officials based in Washington, D.C.”
“Operation Fast and Furious was the largest firearms trafficking case involving the U.S.-Mexico border in the history of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. The case began in the fall of 2009 in ATF’s Phoenix Field Division under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge William Newell, an agent with a history of sanctioning the dangerous investigative technique known as gunwalking. Newell had been reprimanded before by ATF management for pushing the envelope with discredited tactics. But Newell had an audacious goal. He intended to dismantle the U.S.-based gun trafficking network that supplied the formidable Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. When the Obama administration resurrected an earlier case in which his division used reckless gunwalking tactics, Newell saw his opportunity.”