Richard Serrano of the LA Times writes that a report that should be released later this week by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee names five BATFE officials as collectively responsible for Operation Fast and Furious. The report also states that they attempted to hide from the Mexican the fact that is was walked guns that were used in the murder of the Mexican attorney general’s brother.
This report is the first of three to be released. The other two will detail the failure of supervision and leadership by Justice Department officials and will go into the obstruction of the Congressional investigation by the highest levels of the Justice Department. This report is co-authored by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
The officials named in the report include William Newell, William McMahon, Mark Chait, William Hoover, and Kenneth Melson.
They found that William Newell, the special agent-in-charge in Phoenix, exhibited “repeatedly risky” management and “consistently pushed the envelope of permissible investigative techniques.” The report said “he had been reprimanded … before for crossing the line, but under a new administration and a new attorney general he reverted back to the use of risky gunwalking tactics.”
His boss, Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, “rubber stamped critical documents that came across his desk without reading them,” the report alleged. “In McMahon’s view it was not his job to ask any questions about what was going on in the field.”
They added that McMahon gave “false testimony” to Congress about signing applications for wiretap intercepts in Fast and Furious.
His supervisor, Mark Chait, assistant director for field operations, “played a surprisingly passive role during the operation,” the report said. “He failed to provide oversight that his experience should have dictated and his position required.”
Above Chait was Deputy Director William Hoover, who the report said ordered an exit strategy to scuttle Fast and Furious but never followed through: “Hoover was derelict in his duty to ensure that public safety was not jeopardized.”
And they said Melson, a longtime career Justice official, “often stayed above the fray” instead of bringing Fast and Furious to an “end sooner.”
The report, while naming Melson as one responsible officials, said that Justice Department officials tried to make him the scapegoat for the operation after his testimony to the committee on July 4th of 2011.
To date, all the men named in the report still hold positions within BATFE headquarters or the Justice Department in the case of Kenneth Melson.