More than a dozen officials were criticized for their handling of Operation Fast and Furious — from ATF’s Phoenix Field Office to the chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division — in the Inspector General report released Wednesday.
Nineteen individuals were discussed in the conclusion section of the 471-page report. But three no longer work within the department and two were found not at fault. The report paints a picture of miscommunication and inadequate oversight in the botched gun-tracing investigation, placing much of the blame with the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office and the Phoenix Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Two left the department after the release of the report this week.
Twelve officials are still employed by the Justice Department and its component agency, ATF. These are the officials whom the IG recommended the department consider for discipline or administrative action. What follows is a summary of each person’s role, according to the report.
Justice Department headquarters:
- Lanny Breuer, Criminal Division chief at Main Justice
- Gary Grindler, then-acting Deputy Attorney General
Grindler should have informed the Attorney General that two weapons found at Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s death had been tracked and lost in Operation Fast and Furious, the report found. He also should have made further inquiries to ATF and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office about the connection.
- Monty Wilkinson, then-Deputy Chief of Staff to Eric Holder
Wilkinson should have promptly notified the Attorney General of the link between weapons found at Terry’s death and the operation, “given that the information implicated significant department interests,” the report states.
- William McMahon, Deputy Assistant Director
McMahon did not consider the risk to public safety in allowing gun-walking to be carried out in the operation, and he failed to share important information about the investigation to his superiors at ATF, the report found. He also did not show appropriate oversight in securing an exit strategy for the investigation, the report states.
- Mark Chait, Assistant Director
Chait did not consider the risk the public safety, and he should have better overseen the completion of an exit strategy, the report found. In addition, he did not evaluate the wiretap applications per ATF policy, the document states.
- William Hoover, Deputy Director
Hoover should have asked “probing questions” earlier on about the operation and he “assumed too much and failed to ask important questions about the case until too late,” the report found. In addition, his oversight of the investgiation was “seriously deficient.” It also found that his response to Terry’s murder was not up to par, saying he shoould have asked for more information about the linkage between the death and Fast and Furious, the report states.
ATF Phoenix Field Division:
- Hope MacAllister, Special Agent
MacAllister initiated the operation that would later be dubbed “Fast and Furious.” Though it’s reasonable for MacAllister to have relied on the support and advice she received from the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Inspector General was “troubled by the lack of urgency in MacAllister’s tactical approach” and by her “understanding of the evidence required for enforcement action in the case,” the report states. Overall, MacAllister did not show adequate regard for the risk to the public’s safety by employing such tactics, the report says.
- David Voth, Group Supervisor
As the direct supervisor of the investigation, Voth “failed to provide responsible supervision of the investigation,” the report found, and he affirmed MacAllister’s strategy in the case.
- George Gillet, Assistant Special Agent in Charge
- William Newell, Special Agent in Charge
The Inspector General’s Office found that Newell “fully supported” the strategy behind Fast and Furious. The report also states Newell relayed “incomplete information” to ATF headquarters on matters related to the investigation, which gave a “misleading impression.” In addition, the report contends, Newell “failed to provide the leadership and judgment required of a Special Agent in Charge.”
Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office
- Emory Hurley, Assistant U.S. Attorney
The Inspector General’s primary criticism of Hurley was focused on his judgment of the risk to the public’s safety by affirming a long-term strategy that allowed more and more guns to be trafficked over the border. “We found the lack of urgency… troubling,” the report states. Hurley was the main and only prosecutor assigned to the case.
- Michael Morrissey, Section Chief
Morrissey did not provide “responsible supervision” over Hurley during the course of the investigation, the report found, saying he “should have been more cognizant of the need to staff the investigation with additional resources.” Even though Hurley did not ask for additional support, Morrissey should have been aware of the complexities involved as the investigation moved toward indictment, the report stated. “The failure to adequately staff the case was a significant mistake,” the report contends.
Those mentioned but not faulted were: Attorney General Eric Holder and ATF Phoenix Field Division Special Agent Brandon Garcia. The Inspector General found Holder neither authorized the controversial gun-walking tactics employed in Fast and Furious, nor was he aware of the tactics until after the investigation had been shut down. Garcia was involved in an earlier gun-walking operation, known as Wide Receiver, but the report found he was inexperienced and lacked proper oversight from supervisors.
Three officials singled out in the report no longer working within their respective agencies. They are former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office Criminal Chief Patrick Cunningham and ATF’s Tuscon Field Office Resident in Charge Charles Higman. Burke resigned in August 2011 and Cunningham resigned in January. Higman supervised Operation Wide Receiver and no longer works with ATF.
The Inspector General does not have the authority to refer the twelve remaining individuals for discipline. But the report said that “we recommend that the Department review the conduct and performance of the Department personnel as described in this report and determine whether discipline or other administrative action with regard to each of them is appropriate.”
Holder announced Wednesday that “individuals within ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, whom the OIG report found to have been responsible for designing, implementing or supervising Operation Fast and Furious have been referred to the appropriate entities for review and consideration of potential personnel actions.” Holder also said he could not reveal any addition information about those referrals, citing the Privacy Act.
In Wednesday’s fall-out, former acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson announced his retirement from the Justice Department after 30 years of service. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigned.