09/22/12 – After an 18-month investigation into a botched gun-trafficking initiative known as Operation Fast and Furious, the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General has identified 14 law enforcement officials from various government agencies as having created a “significant danger to public safety” during the course of the operation, according to Mexican news source Terra. The officials range from lower level field agent positions to top management in both the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The operation, conducted over a period of a few years, was an effort by the DOJ and ATF in Arizona and Washington, DC., to target leaders of firearm trafficking coalitions throughout Mexico and the Southwestern region of the United States, and resulted in the illegal purchase of around 2,000 marked firearms between 2009 and 2010. The situation spun out of control when many of the firearms went unaccounted for, and evidence of the instability of the initiative surfaced when one of the firearms that resulted in the 2010 death of U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry was discovered to be one of the original weapons distributed. (Read more about the developments of the Fast and Furious scandal by clicking here.)
Of those accused of a lack of accountability during the project, one of the notable exceptions was Attorney General Eric Holder, who earlier this summer was declared to be in contempt of Congress due to the DOJ’s unwillingness to produce certain documents subpoenaed during the course of an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In the most recent developments, it was found that Holder did not have sufficient information about what was happening during the operation, and therefore was absolved of accusations that he had played a significant role in its failure.
Two of the officials specifically listed by the investigation as being at fault have already stepped down from their current positions: Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jacob Weinstein and former head of the ATF Kenneth Melson, the Los Angeles Times reported. The remaining officials who still hold their positions have all been recommended for disciplinary action, though it is unclear what consequential steps will be taken. President Obama made remarks on the topic after the DOJ concluded its investigation, both lending support to Holder, as well as noting the difficulty of managing the arms-trafficking situation. “We have to be certain that we find the balance of correctly handling both U.S. citizens’ right [to bear arms], but at the same time avoiding letting such arms fall into the hands of criminals,” he said.