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Congressional Report on "Fast & Furious" Reveals Serious Misjudgments

Friday, August 3, 2012

This week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) released Part 1of a joint congressional report on the findings of the investigation into the "Fast & Furious" gun smuggling scandal.  The first part looks at the actions of the Phoenix BATFE regional office and the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office. Parts 2 and 3 will be released in the coming months and will look at the roles of the Deputy Attorney General's office and the Justice Department's Criminal Division.

Part one of the report consists of 2,359 pages, including 211 pages of text, with 692 footnotes, 266 exhibits, and three appendices. The report's conclusion is stark:

"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."

One of the five men named as directly responsible for the operation has resigned his position in the wake of the report, but the other four remain in senior positions within the agency. As the report states:

"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."

Within hours of the release of the report, the Justice Department once again tried to deflect responsibility by asserting this was a continuation of a Bush Administration policy. This claim has been shown to be false.  In previous operations, U.S. or Mexican agents were supposed to track and intercept the guns. When it was learned that some guns had been lost, the operations were shut down and considered a failure.  In contrast, agents involved in "Fast & Furious" were ordered not to interdict the guns, Mexican officials were never informed, and no effort was made to track the illegally purchased firearms.

The continued refusal on the part of the Justice Department to take responsibility for this reckless program or to hold any of the lower level officials responsible in any meaningful way raises serious questions about the motives of senior department officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder.  Parts 2 and 3 of the report should shed light on these serious issues.

NRA will continue to analyze the 2,300 page report and provide additional information to our members. The Report Summary and links to the full report and appendices can be found here.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.