Republican investigators pinned the failures of “Operation Fast and Furious” on five officials in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a scathing joint congressional draft report issued Monday evening.
The 211-page draft report, obtained by The Hill, called on the Obama administration and the Senate to bolster the leadership of the ATF — which has been without a permanent director for six years — in order to move beyond the failed gun-tracking operation that led House Republicans to place Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress last month.
Monday’s draft report was the first of three set to be issued by congressional Republicans on the botched operation that oversaw the sale of nearly 2,000 guns to straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels and may have contributed to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
The report announced that the House will move “soon” to “commence legal proceedings” to enforce the resolutions that placed Holder in contempt of Congress.
Republican staff for Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, prepared the report after investigating “Fast and Furious" for more than 18 months.
The report determined that five officials in the ATF were responsible, ranging from a former low-ranking special agent to the former acting head of the agency. Congressional investigators called attention to the weak leadership at the ATF and pushed for the agency to be strengthened.
“Strong leadership is needed at ATF to overcome the deep scars left by Operation Fast and Furious,” the report states. “Greater accountability within ATF would underscore that ineffective supervision and recklessness both have consequences.”
Specifically, the report pins blame on former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell, former Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, former Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, the former Deputy Director William Hoover, and former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson.
All five of the ATF officials who were singled out in the report have since been reassigned to other positions.
The report was compiled with the intention of looking at the problems surrounding “Fast and Furious” through the lens of the U.S. attorney’s office and the ATF.
The second of the three reports is expected to look at the alleged breakdown in management within Department of Justice headquarters with a special focus on the deputy attorney general’s office and the DOJ’s criminal division.
The final report is set to “address the unprecedented obstruction of the investigation by the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the attorney general himself” and “can only be prepared after the Justice Department fulfills its obligations to cooperate with the Congress and produce documents.”
Issa and Grassley, together with House GOP leadership, have pressed Holder for a cache of documents that relate to his department’s response to congressional inquiries on “Fast and Furious.”
The DOJ initially denied that it let guns “walk” — or knowingly fall into the hands of suspected criminals — in a letter to Grassley. That letter was later rescinded.
The report which is entitled: “Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a Failed Operation,” was a culmination of four full committee hearings, 24 transcribed interviews, numerous telephone conversations with confidential witnesses, and thousands of documents received from the DOJ and “whistleblowers.”