Four senior ATF supervisors involved in the botched gun-walking operation known as Fast and Furious have been recommended for removal by the agency’s review board, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Two other Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employees based in Arizona have been recommended for a demotion and disciplinary transfer, the report states.
The Professional Review Board of ATF sent notice of its recommendations in the last few days, setting off the beginning of what is likely to be a long process of appeals and, potentially, litigation.
Those recommended for removal are Mark Chait, Assistant Director for Field Operations; William McMahon, Deputy Assistant Director; William Newell, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Phoenix Field Office; and George Gillett, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Office.
Additionally, David Voth, a group supervisor in the Phoenix Field Office; and Hope MacAllister, a special agent in Phoenix; are also facing reprimand. Under the review board’s recommendations, Voth would be demoted to a street agent and MacAllister would face a disciplinary transfer to another ATF job, the Journal reported.
The report also states those under review by the board could have their security clearances revoked.
Senior ATF officials will now review the board’s recommendations, and the agents are given the opportunity to appeal their decision. All of the ATF officials were mentioned in the Justice Department’s Inspector General report released earlier this year, which reviewed the management failures in the operation.
McMahon was dismissed last week, according to the report, but that decision is subject to appeal.
“Mr. McMahon was unfortunately the victim of a politically charged football match over an operation that was officially sanctioned,” McMahon’s lawyer, Mark S. Zaid, told the Wall Street Journal. ”As a result, he was terminated less than a month shy of achieving his 25-year pension. He’ll absolutely be appealing that decision.”
Gillett’s attorney, Peter Noone, told Main Justice in an email that Gillett has received a proposal for his removal.
“We will be responding to that proposal,” he said. “Given that this matter is likely to involve litigation, I cannot provide any additional information.”
Attorney for Chait, David Laufman, told Main Justice that his client “has not been advised of any adverse finding or recommendation by the Professional Review Board at ATF, and any such action would be utterly without merit.”
“Mr. Chait had no contemporaneous knowledge or reason to believe that ATF agents in the Phoenix field division were allowing firearms to flow to suspected straw purchasers, or were foregoing the interdiction of firearms transfers when operationally feasible and permissible under law,” he said in a statement.
Lawyers for Newell and Voth and an ATF spokesman declined comment. MacAllister’s lawyer did not a return a request for comment.
Fast and Furious was a gun investigation run out of Arizona by ATF. Agents aimed to track the flow of guns sold to strawbuyers and then smuggled across the border. Hundreds of guns went missing, however, and two were found at the scene of a shootout between U.S. Border Patrol agents and Mexican bandits. Border Agent Brian Terry was killed in the gunfire in December 2010.