DOJ’s “Absentee Managers” Cover Up Mexican Gun-Running Scandal
The fallout from the Obama Administration’s disastrous Mexican gun-running operation continues, with a second federal audit in just weeks blasting Department of Justice (DOJ) hierarchy for covering up the scandal and lying to the family of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran the once-secret program known as Operation Fast and Furious that allowed thousands of guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which have been used in an unknown number of crimes.
The lost guns have been linked to violence on both sides of the border, including the murder of a federal agent (Brian Terry) in Peck Canyon Arizona. In that case, the guns—assault weapons known as AK-47s—were traced through their serial numbers to a Glendale, Arizona dealer that led to a Phoenix man the feds repeatedly allowed to smuggle firearms into Mexico.
While this illegal government operation spiraled out of control, high-ranking officials at the DOJ were “absentee managers” who failed to provide leadership, according to congressional investigators. In a lengthy report made public this week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee outlines a shameful management breakdown at the DOJ, which is responsible for supervising the ATF. “In fact, Fast and Furious had many enablers among the senior levels of the Justice Department,” the report says.
Making things worse, high-ranking DOJ officials with inside knowledge of the flawed gun-running scheme have refused to provide Terry’s family with accurate information. “Brian Terry’s family is still seeking answers 21 months after his death,” the report says, yet “two senior officials very close to the Attorney General who each had detailed knowledge of Fast and Furious, have been unable and unwilling to provide the Terry family any answers.”
Specifically, the report names Attorney General Eric Holder’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Monty Wilkinson, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel as well as U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, Dennis Burke. On dozens of occasions they repeated these lines when asked about the gun-running operation: “Did not recall” or “did not know.”
Last month the DOJ Inspector General issued its own 512-page report finding that four high-ranking agency officials, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, knew about Fast and Furious yet took no action. Weinstein quickly resigned after the IG’s report was released, but Breuer remains in his office.
During testimony before a congressional panel, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that the Obama White House obstructed his investigation into the botched gun-running sting by, among other things, refusing to provide internal communications crucial to the probe. Horowitz also blasted senior leadership at both the DOJ and ATF for doing “little in the immediate aftermath of Agent Terry’s shooting to try to learn how two weapons that had been purchased 11 months earlier by a previously identified subject of Operation Fast and Furious ended up at the murder scene.”
Judicial Watch launched an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious last summer and this month JW sued the DOJ and ATF for records requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) back in mid-July, 2011. Last fall JW obtained internal government documents that show the number of crimes connected to the gun-running experiment is significantly higher than the administration has chosen to disclose.