WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department's inspector general recommended Wednesday that 14 current federal officials face disciplinary reviews over the botched gun-trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious.
In a scathing report, the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, laid primary blame on what he portrayed as a dysfunctional and poorly supervised group of Arizona-based federal prosecutors and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. As part of the operation, those officials did not act to seize illegal weapons in hopes of bringing a bigger case against a gun-smuggling network linked to a Mexican drug gang.
While it found no evidence that officials at the Justice Department in Washington had authorized or approved the tactics, it faulted several officials for related failures, including not recognizing red flags and failing to follow up on information about both Operation Fast and Furious and a similar, earlier investigation called Operation Wide Receiver, in which guns also reached drug gangs.
"In the course of our review, we identified individuals ranging from line agents and prosecutors in Phoenix and Tucson to senior ATF officials in Washington, D.C., who bore a share of responsibility for ATF's knowing failure in both these operations to interdict firearms illegally destined for Mexico, and for doing so without adequately taking into account the danger to public safety that flowed from
The long-awaited 471-page report is likely to be the closest thing to a definitive historical accounting of an operation that has led to a continuing confrontation between congressional Republicans and the Obama administration, which culminated in a vote by the House to cite Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for contempt.
For more than a year, some Republicans and commentators on conservative media outlets have floated theories that senior administration officials must have approved the operation -- deliberately fostering gun violence to lay the groundwork for strengthening gun-control laws -- and that they were covering up their knowledge of what was happening in Arizona.
It was the first major report for Horowitz, who previously served in the department in both Republican and Democratic administrations, including as chief of staff to Michael Chertoff when he was assistant attorney general for the criminal division under President George W. Bush.
His office had access to tens of thousands of documents that congressional investigators did not, including grand jury information and internal emails that President Barack Obama, citing executive privilege, refused to hand over. He also interviewed more than 130 officials, including several that Congress did not, from former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to several low-ranking prosecutors.
Many of the basic findings of the report dovetail with less extensive reports issued in January by Democratic staff members with the House Oversight Committee and in July by Republican staff members.
Weaving together accounts from interviews and documents, it recounts how the investigation into an Arizona-based gunrunning network linked to a Mexican drug gang began in late 2009, how it unfolded, and how it was finally shut down in early 2011 after two guns linked to the case were found near a shootout where a Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed.