Editor’s Note - Sleepy, Dopey, and Sneezy at the Department of Justice all have that crazy ailment, CRS (Cant Remember Stuff) in regard to Fast and Furious. Congressman Darrel Issa, head of the Congressional Oversight Committee has been working diligently on the case and today issued a comprehensive summary.
The thumbnail sketch of this summary is this:
“Meanwhile, no one at ATF or the Justice Department notified the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry about the connection between an ATF case and the guns found at the scene of their son’s death. The Terry family did not learn this fact until six weeks after his death, when ATF whistleblowers came forward and Congress launched its investigation.
Senior Justice Department officials were not eager to find out what was going on at ATF during Fast and Furious. After its failure, they were even less inclined to do so. Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General Monty Wilkinson was uninterested in the initiatives and operations of individual Justice Department components—including those in his portfolio. In fact, he believed it was not the role of anyone in the Office of the Attorney General to manage and supervise Department components.
He read weekly memos containing details about Fast and Furious, but did nothing with this information. Wilkinson claims he never brought the issue of Fast and Furious to Attorney General Holder’s attention although he knew about it for several months. Beginning in the summer of 2010, the Attorney General began receiving weekly updates on Operation Fast and Furious.”
From the members of the SUA family and staff to those killed with Fast and Furious weapons, we continue to offer our sympathy for your losses and we, like the majority of American Patriots, are embarrassed at the lack of justice under Eric Holder at the Department of Justice.
Download the full report here as a web page, or here as a PDF: Report: “Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a Failed Operation – Part II of III”. Here is the executive summary:
Operation Fast and Furious was not a strictly local operation conceived by a rogue ATF office in Phoenix, but rather the product of a deliberate strategy created at the highest levels of the Justice Department aimed at identifying the leaders of a major gun trafficking ring. This strategy, along with institutional inertia, led to the genesis, implementation, and year-long duration of Fast and Furious.
Shortly after he took office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. delivered a series of speeches about combating violence along the southwest border. He focused specifically on fighting Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, and in the fall of 2009, the Justice Department released a document crystallizing the Attorney General’s vision, entitled “Department of Justice Strategy for Combating the Mexican Cartels.”
As part of this new strategy, the Department of Justice made a tactical decision to shift its focus from arresting straw purchasers to identifying members of large illegal trafficking networks. These investigations would involve multiple federal agencies, and local U.S. Attorney’s offices would coordinate them. In October 2009, the Deputy Attorney General led a newly created Southwest Border Strategy Group designed to ensure the effective implementation of this strategy.
The ATF Phoenix Field Division received the Department’s new strategy favorably.
Leaders of the Phoenix Field Division believed that the new strategy allowed agents to witness illegally purchased weapons being transferred to third parties without interdiction, even if lawful interdiction was possible. Consistent with a desire for a new emphasis on prosecuting gun trafficking cases, at around the same time, Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, assigned a prosecutor to a dormant firearms trafficking case out of the ATF Phoenix Field Division known as Operation Wide Receiver. Under prior Department leadership, Wide Receiver was not prosecuted, in part due to the reckless tactics used in the investigation.
Both Breuer’s resurrection of the prosecution and the Department’s new strategy, however, provided the imprimatur for the Phoenix Field Division to create Operation Fast and Furious.
Though the Criminal Division assigned an attorney to assist with Fast and Furious, the operation quickly spun out of control. Straw purchasers bought hundreds of weapons illegally while federal agents watched. Armed with this information, beginning in the spring of 2010, the Department’s Criminal Division—in particular, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein—authorized several applications for wire intercepts to monitor the phones of straw purchasers. In the summer of 2010, a second attorney from the Criminal Division began assisting with Fast and Furious, and the Criminal Division authorized additional applications for wire intercepts. Fast and Furious was growing even larger.
The Criminal Division was not the only component of the Justice Department overseeing Fast and Furious. The Office of the Deputy Attorney General was also involved. Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and his staff were briefed extensively on the enormous volume of firearms involved in the case. Individuals in that office, including Ed Siskel, received constant updates on recoveries of large numbers of weapons connected to Fast and Furious.
Though many senior Department officials were keenly aware of Fast and Furious, no one questioned the operation. The Southwest Border Strategy Group asked no questions. The Criminal Division asked no questions. The Office of the Deputy Attorney General asked no questions. No one ordered that Fast and Furious be shut down. Instead, senior Department officials let it continue to grow. Officials in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General were ill-prepared to understand and approve Fast and Furious. Ed Siskel, the Associate Deputy Attorney General responsible for the ATF portfolio, had no prior training or experience with ATF, and he did not make any effort to gain information about ATF while at his position. Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler admitted that he did not appreciate the massive size of Fast and Furious, even though it was the largest firearms trafficking case involving Mexico ever undertaken.
The hands-off management approach taken by these senior managers meant that they expected problems to be reported to them, failing to seek out information themselves. Siskel and Grindler did not ask any questions about Fast and Furious because they did not know what questions they should have been asking about Fast and Furious.
Monty Wilkinson, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, contributed to the Department’s lack of supervision over Fast and Furious. While Wilkinson read memos to the Attorney General about Fast and Furious, he did not believe it was his role to manage and supervise components of the Department, including ATF and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office. Wilkinson, like other senior Department officials, never asked questions about Fast and Furious.
In fact, just before the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Monty Wilkinson was inquiring about the possibility of the Attorney General traveling to Phoenix to help announce Fast and Furious at a press conference. Once the weapons found at the Terry murder scene were traced to Fast and Furious, though, this idea was quickly scrapped.
Department leadership’s failure to recognize Fast and Furious was a problem until it was too late was the result of a “pass-the-buck” attitude that emanated from the highest echelons of the Department of Justice. Every senior Department official interviewed during the Committees’ investigation claimed either ignorance of Fast and Furious or that it was someone else’s responsibility to ask questions or draw connections. Senior managers placed blame elsewhere and retained plausible deniability. This environment allowed Fast and Furious to fester for over a year.
Thus far, the Department has failed to reprimand any senior Department officials for their actions—or lack thereof—during Fast and Furious. In fact, several have received promotions. The management culture of the Department must change to prevent such a deadly operation from occurring again. Time is of the essence. Change must begin now.