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Let the Finger-Pointing Begin

Friday, September 14, 2012

We reported last month that the Department of Justice's Inspector General's draft report on "Operation Fast and Furious" placed most of the blame for the debacle on Phoenix‑based agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and on the Phoenix U.S. Attorney's Office staff.

This week, Fox News reported that it had obtained exclusive portions of the DOJ's IG report that have not yet been made public, and that the documents, while not complete, show that dozens of senior-level U.S. government officials ignored public safety in the deadly "Fast and Furious" gun-walking operation.

According to the Fox News article, the report cites a failure in leadership and a lack of accountability and oversight up and down the chain of command at BATFE, the DOJ itself, and other offices, and says many senior executives knew the government was helping traffic guns to Mexico that killed people, but did nothing to stop it.

Fox quotes the draft report as saying, "We found no evidence in Operation Fast and Furious that the ATF or the (U.S. attorney's office) attempted at any point during the investigation to balance the risks to the public safety against the long-term benefits of identifying trafficking networks and participants."

As we noted last month, those singled out in the report as most culpable include BATFE's then-Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell, lead "Fast and Furious" agent Hope MacAllister, and group supervisor David Voth, who claim their superiors were fully informed of the operation's details and approved its most questionable aspects.

The Fox News article points out that while the report blames Newell and Voth for poor judgment, attorneys for the two men say higher-ups and the entire BATFE chain of command were not only aware of everything they did, but encouraged it.

And, as if things couldn't get any worse, Fox News also reported this week that guns from "Fast and Furious" have now allegedly been discovered in the hands of the Medellin drug cartel in Medellin, Columbia.  The article went on to say that authorities in Colombia are investigating whether firearms found in Bogota and the coastal city of Barranquilla also came from BATFE programs.

The full IG report on "Operation Fast and Furious" is expected to be made available to the public early next week and the finger-pointing should continue in earnest.  Whether the report finally determines who should be held responsible for "Fast and Furious" remains to be seen.

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