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Fast and Furious: why inspector 'struggled to understand' what he found (+video)

The inspector general who investigated the Fast and Furious 'gunwalking' scandal absolved Attorney General Eric Holder, and Republicans agreed. But he was 'troubled' by what he found. 

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The actions of at least 14 US officials – from line agents to deputy assistant attorney generals – “reflected a significant lack of oversight and urgency and a disregard for safety of individuals in the United States and Mexico, [and highlighted] misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgement and management failures that permeated ATF headquarters and headquarters of the Department of Justice,” Horowitz said. “There were many points in this case at all levels where information flow not only wasn’t what it should have been, but in some instances it was inaccurate even when information was flowing.”

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In his report, Horowitz said that Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein reviewed a cover memo for one wiretap application that “clearly suggests” ATF agents had let a straw buyer continue to illegally traffic guns to cartels. Mr. Weinstein resigned Wednesday. Through his lawyer, Weinstein has said he had been assured by ATF staff that the guns were being interdicted.

Former ATF acting chief Ken Melson, who was also criticized in the report, retired from government service Wednesday. The 12 others mentioned will face employment reviews, according to Holder.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democratic member on the oversight committee, agreed that the report raised troubling questions. “You’ve painted the picture quite accurately for us, and nobody up here likes the picture that we see, and I don’t think Eric Holder likes this picture,” Congressman Cummings told Horowitz.

While maintaining he didn’t know about the program until after Mr. Terry’s death, Holder has taken responsibility for Fast and Furious, vowed it won’t happen again, and has apologized to the family of Terry. According to Horowitz, Holder has begun to address specific reforms suggested by the report – including the handling of wiretap affidavits – and Justice has to report back in 90 days on how those reforms are proceeding.

For his part, Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California, one of Holder’s most consistent critics and chairman of the committee, agreed that evidence suggests Holder was not responsible for the program itself. What was at issue in the June contempt votes, other Republicans noted, was Holder's refusal to release documents Congress wanted. President Obama also invoked executive privilege to protect some of the documents, although Horowitz was able to access all 100,000 documents he requested.

Horowitz told the committee that his investigation continues, particularly into allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers. He’s also working to have courts unseal the specific Fast and Furious wiretap applications that he reviewed, and which, he says, raised “red flags” that Justice Department attorneys should have picked up on.

Horowitz also suggested another potential line of questioning for Congress. He was rebuffed by the lawyers of Kevin O’Reilly, a former White House national security staffer, in his efforts to discuss conversations Mr. O'Reilly had with a top ATF official in Phoenix that reference Fast and Furious. Horowitz could not force Mr. O’Reilly to talk because he didn't have subpoena purview outside the Justice Department.


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