US Recommends Disciplinary Action in Failed Gun Smuggling Operation

Posted September 19th, 2012 at 5:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. Justice Department is recommending disciplinary action against 14 past and current employees, including the former acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The probe centered on their roles in a botched effort to infiltrate a gun smuggling operation between the United States and Mexico.

The long-awaited inspector general's report also recommended disciplinary action against Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, but exonerated his boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, of wrongdoing. Two key figures in the failed sting operation, former ATF acting director Kenneth Melson and career Justice Department lawyer Jason Weinstein, resigned Wednesday as the report was released.

Wednesday's report found no evidence that Attorney General Holder was informed about details of the operation.

Under the failed scheme, known as “Fast and Furious,” federal agents in Arizona allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico, hoping the weaponry would lead them directly to arms traffickers. But U.S. agents lost track of the weapons once they crossed the border.

The scheme backfired when it was later learned two of the guns were used in the murder of a U.S. border agent, while other weapons turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and in the United States.

In describing its findings, the report said “Fast and Furious” received little or no supervision by ATF headquarters, despite its connections to a dangerous narcotics cartel in Mexico….” It also described “the serious risk it created to public safety” in both countries and its potential impact on U.S. relations with Mexico.

Details of “Fast and Furious,” reported earlier this year by Fortune Magazine, triggered a firestorm of controversy on Capitol Hill. In a largely symbolic move, The U.S. House of Representatives voted along party lines to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over gun-running documents. The contempt citation was then forwarded to the Justice Department, which declined to prosecute.