DOJ Inspector General To Investigate ATF Sting Operation In Milwaukee

An ATF sting operation called Operation Fearless will now be investigated by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General. This operation in Milwaukee featured a storefront sting effort that went horribly bad. They had merchandise stolen, left behind confidential documents, damaged the building that they were renting, and had an ATF-owned automatic weapon stolen which is still missing.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel investigated it and has a whole series on it.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz wrote to two members of Congress that the Milwaukee sting appeared to raise “significant management issues relating to the oversight and management” of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The issues, the letter said, were especially troubling coming after the agency had promised reforms.

A bipartisan group of congressional members demanded answers after a Journal Sentinel investigation of the sting that revealed an agent’s guns, including a machine gun, were stolen, the ATF storefront was ripped off of $40,000 in merchandise and agents allowed an armed felon who threatened to shoot someone to leave the store. At least four of the wrong people were arrested and three of them charged, including a man who was in prison. The ATF machine gun is still missing.

The ATF promised better oversight in the wake of Fast and Furious, where agents in Arizona encouraged the sale of more than 2,000 firearms to gun traffickers but lost track of the weapons. Many ended up at crime scenes in Mexico and at the scene where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed. The inspector general’s report on Fast and Furious was sharply critical of the ATF and the U.S. attorney’s office, finding “a significant lack of oversight” by both agencies.

Horowitz’s letter on the Milwaukee operation, called “Operation Fearless,” said the ATF’s internal report on the incident addressed the management issues that concerned him. But Horowitz said his office would still examine the Milwaukee sting, along with other recent ATF operations.

He said he would determine if the Justice Department and the ATF have responded appropriately to the inspector general’s recommendations after Operation Fast and Furious. He gave no timetable for when the review would be done.

You have to wonder if ATF really has become the gang that can’t shoot straight.

Request For DOJ IG To Investigate Zapata Murder

Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News is reporting this afternoon that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have sent a letter to Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice Inspector General, requesting that he investigate the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata. The murder weapons used in Zapata’s death have been traced to guns that ATF allowed to be walked.

According to the letter, ATF may have had probable cause to arrest
two firearms dealers before they bought and trafficked a weapon used to
murder Zapata, who was on assignment in Mexico. “Only after Agent Zapata
was murdered…and one of the weapons was traced back” to suspect
Otilio Osorio “did ATF finally arrest Otilio, his brother and a third
suspect for their gun trafficking activity,” reads the letter.

investigators say ATF had earlier witnessed the Osorio brothers in a
Walmart parking lot providing 40 weapons with obliterated serial numbers
to be trafficked to Mexico. It was what’s known as a “controlled
delivery,” meaning law enforcement officials were monitoring the sale.
In this case it was part of a joint investigation with the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA). But “ATF failed to confront the two
individuals” leaving them to continue to allegedly traffic weapons,
including one used in Zapata’s killing, according to the letter.

The DOJ IG’s office is said to be reviewing the request.

Sen. Chuck Grassley On IG Report And Hearings

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was interviewed on Fox News this afternoon about the Inspector General’s report and the hearings into them. He said the report was fairly good. He attacked the Obama Administration’s claim of executive privilege. He noted that there was a lot of stuff covered under executive privilege that wasn’t even shared with the DOJ IG even though they are both in the executive branch. However, he said that the IG’s report did provide an opening as over 300 pages of documents previously sealed by the claim of executive privilege were used in the production of this report.

Grassley nails Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer over what he knew or should have known of Operation Fast and Furious and is disappointed that the report absolved Breuer.

Watch the latest video at

The Oversight Committee Hearings Today

I was tied up with work all day and wasn’t able to break away to watch the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. They held a hearing today on DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on Operation Fast and Furious.

If you were like me, you had to work as well. Fortunately, the Committee has made the video available of the hearings. You can see them below:

Grassley Statement On OIG Report

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) issued a statement today regarding the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious. He notes that much of what was contained in the report had already been reported by Sen. Grassley and Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Grassley noted that the wire tap applications still have not been made public nor have much of what was hidden under President Obama’s claim of executive privilege. Grassley called Obama’s actions “merely thumbing his nose” at Congress.

The full statement is below:

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the
Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department, made the
following comment after the Inspector General for the Justice
Department released its long awaited report on Operation Fast and
Furious.  Grassley first began investigating alleged gunwalking in
January 2011 after whistleblowers came forward to alert Congress about
gunwalking in Arizona.  The Justice Department and Attorney General Eric
Holder initially denied gunwalking occurred.

“At first glance, the Inspector General’s report reaffirms virtually
everything that Congressman Issa and I have already reported.  Operation
Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a
number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the
Justice Department headquarters.  And, we still don’t know the full
extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be
transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General.  

“It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to
provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious.  They
ignored warnings from employees, and frankly, failed to do their jobs. 
It took the death of our own Border Patrol Agent, action by a courageous
whistleblower, and intense scrutiny from Congress before they even took
note of what was happening under their own eyes.  Even then, they
wouldn’t come clean with how bad it really was until after they had sent
a false letter and retracted it eight months later.

“It’s particularly discouraging that this all could have been stopped
early on if people had just read the wiretap applications.  The
Inspector General noted that anybody reading those documents should have
seen the red flags. The law requires that certain senior officials
authorize those applications, and the Inspector General found that they
did so without reading them.  I’m glad that the OIG is joining me and
Chairman Issa in urging the Justice Department to move to unseal the
wiretap applications so that the American people can read them and make
up their own minds.

“The President also appears to be abusing his authority to exert
executive privilege.  The White House rightly allowed the Inspector
General to make public a small subset of the documents withheld from
Congress under his claim of Executive Privilege, but it continues to
shut out Congress’ access to the rest of the documents.  It proves that
this subset of documents could have been released earlier, and the
President was merely thumbing his nose at Congress by claiming Executive
Privilege on the eve of the contempt vote against Attorney General
Holder for withholding the documents.

“It’s time to hold people accountable.  Attorney General Holder is out of excuses for action.

“We’ll be reading the report in more detail.  We’ve already noticed that
the report contains a factual error that lets Assistant Attorney
General Lanny Breuer off the hook.  The report accepts Breuer’s version
of events, claiming that he hadn’t “proposed edits, commented on the
drafts or otherwise indicated he had read them.”  In fact, emails show
that he received drafts of the February 4 letter and commented on them
before it was sent, which he later denied to Congress. 

“Last but not least, I hope the report helps answer questions for the
Terry family.  They deserve more answers than they’ve received up to
this point from their government.”

Sharyl Attkisson On The DOJ OIG Report

Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, one of the few journalists to take Project Gunwalker seriously, had a story this evening on the DOJ Inspector General’s report. Her story notes that both former ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Jason Weinstein disagreed with the findings of the report.

In all, the inspector general faults 18 officials from the Justice Department, to the U.S. Attorney’s office on Arizona, on down to the Phoenix ATF agents who oversaw Fast and Furious.

The report says Holder was in essence let down by his deputies. Although he received numerous briefings on Fast and Furious, they didn’t specifically mention gunwalking and Holder said doesn’t recall reading them anyway.

I’m Sure They’re Consistent, Mr. Attorney General

Attorney General Eric Holder released a statement today on the Office of Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious. He said the key conclusions were “consistent” with what he had been saying “for months now”.

Oh, Eric, you live in such a fantasy land if you think a report by your appointed Inspector General which was delayed for months and months is enough to get you off the hook. As Mike Vanderboegh so rightly called it, it is a whitewash. I think Katie Pavlich is probably correct that you are “spiking the football” and doing a victory dance.

Kenneth Melson has “retired”, Phoenix ATF and USAO personnel are likely to be terminated, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein was, as the Instapundit put it, “GoatScaped”.

You can read the full statement below provided you don’t have a weak gag reflex.

Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement today on the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious:

“I have reviewed the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious and the key conclusions are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now:

  • The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006;
  • The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and

  • The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it.

“Beginning in 2011 – shortly after public concerns were first raised about Operation Fast and Furious – I referred this matter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Throughout the next several months, I instituted significant policy reforms, stronger internal controls and made key personnel changes to prevent the flaws that plagued this investigation, as well as the earlier investigation, Operation Wide Receiver, from recurring. I’m pleased that the OIG report appropriately recognizes these reforms.

“Based upon the information in the OIG report and other related information, I am also announcing additional personnel changes today.

“First, Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director at ATF, has retired from the Department, effective immediately. Ken has served the Department in several important roles for over thirty years, including as a United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and more recently as an advisor on forensic science issues. I want to thank him for his dedication and service to the Department over the last three decades.

“Second, those individuals within ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, whom the OIG report found to have been responsible for designing, implementing or supervising Operation Fast and Furious have been referred to the appropriate entities for review and consideration of potential personnel actions. Consistent with the requirements of the Privacy Act, the Department is prohibited from revealing any additional information about these referrals at this time.

“Finally, I have accepted the resignation of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, a longtime career prosecutor who most recently served in the Criminal Division where he led our violent and organized crime, computer crimes and intellectual property enforcement efforts. Jason has dedicated much of his career to fighting violent crime and has led highly successful efforts around the country in this effort. The American people are safer because of his work. His commitment to the Department has been unwavering, and I deeply appreciate his 15 years of distinguished service here at Main Justice as well as in Baltimore and New York.

“It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations – accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion. I hope today’s report acts as a reminder of the dangers of adopting as fact unsubstantiated conclusions before an investigation of the circumstances is completed.

“I want to assure the American people that I, and my colleagues at the Department, will continue to focus on our mission of protecting their rights and their security, and doing so in a manner that is consistent with the high standards of the Department of Justice. This includes continuing to seek justice on behalf of Agent Brian Terry and his loved ones.

“The FBI and the United States Attorney from the Southern District of California have been working for many months with Mexican authorities to identify and apprehend the fugitives involved in the murder of Agent Terry, who made the ultimate sacrifice in serving his country. We now have two men in custody and we will continue to aggressively pursue the remaining fugitives to ensure justice for Agent Terry, his family and his fellow law enforcement agents who put their lives on the line each day to keep this country safe.”

Fast And Furious IG Report, The Hearings, And A Whitewash

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee had originally scheduled hearings for today to hear from the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz. He was to testify on his report regarding Operation Fast and Furious. These hearings have been rescheduled for next Wednesday, September 19th.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today announced that the hearing previously scheduled for tomorrow to examine the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious has been rescheduled for Wednesday, September 19. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz has confirmed his attendance for the September 19th hearing where he will discuss his report of the investigation into reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious.

Some reports attribute this delay to the Inspector General’s report not being completely finished.

Horowitz in his letter also advised Issa that he may not be able to testify as scheduled Sept. 11 at a committee hearing about the inspector general’s Fast and Furious findings, if the report is not finished and publicly released by then. “As of this date,” he cautioned, “I do not yet know the precise timing for the release of our report.”

Horowitz noted that Justice officials on Wednesday “provided us with its initial sensitivity review for law enforcement sensitive information” including wiretaps, grand jury material and sealed court records.

“We are in the process of discussing these proposed sensitivity redactions with the Department,” Horowitz wrote in the letter, which arrived Wednesday. “We also are awaiting comments from the department regarding whether any material discussed in the report is covered by the president’s assertion of executive privilege.”

The Inspector General is also allowing Justice Department officials to read the report and provide comments/objections before it is released. It is this last part which concerns former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams. He believes a “fix” is in and notes that the Inspector General never allowed any Bush-era DOJ appointees this opportunity. He suggests that the Oversight Committee ask to see the draft report as it existed before Eric Holder and his minions got a hold of it. I think this is a worthwhile suggestion that will probably be ignored.

Adams believes that this report will be just another whitewash of Obama’s political appointees at DOJ.

It has been amusing watching all the anticipation about the release of the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on Fast and Furious. Some folks in Washington actually think that it will be the key that unlocks the door to the scandal. Balderdash. I’ve watched defective report after defective report come from the Justice Department internal affairs units. In the end, they always protect the institution, unless of course conservatives are in the cross hairs.

Unfortunately, I believe Adams to be correct in his assessment. I don’t think anyone who has followed Project Gunwalker from the early days ever expected the Inspector General’s report to be anything other than a whitewash.

One new development that was reported yesterday is the discovery of some of the gunwalked firearms in Colombia. The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports that 2 rifles and 14 FN Five-Seven pistols seized during a raid of a Colombian crime syndicate have been traced to Project Gunwalker.

U.S. weapons that were exported to Mexico as part of the controversial “Fast and Furious” program ended up in the hands of Colombia crime syndicate Oficina de Envigado, reported newspaper El Tiempo Monday.

According to the newspaper, investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have established that some of the weapons found during the arrest of Oficina boss “Sebastian” were part of the thousands of arms lost in the Fast and Furious program.

“Two rifles that were seized in February with ‘Frank’, the brother of Sebastian also are part of the tracking operations of the ATF, the same with 14 Five-seven guns we have found in several raids,” an anonymous high-ranking source within Colombia’s National Police was quoted as saying by El Tiempo.

The source added that ATF agents are in Medellin where the Oficina operates and inspect every seized firearm found in raids in Colombia’s second largest city.

I think we will see these guns turn up at crime scenes throughout the Western Hemisphere for years to come.

Inspector General Reports Blames Locals In Fast And Furious

Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News posted a report on the draft DOJ Inspector General report on Operation Fast and Furious yesterday. The report places most of the blame on Phoenix-based ATF officials including SAC William Newell, group supervisor David Voth, and the lead case agent Hope McAllister.

Those familiar with the contents say ATF Phoenix officials shoulder much blame, including then-Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell, the lead Fast and Furious case agent Hope MacAllister, and group supervisor David Voth.

Since the controversy was first exposed, a divide has developed between the ATF staff in Phoenix who oversaw and implemented Fast and Furious; and their supervisors at ATF headquarters and the Justice Department. The Phoenix officials say higher-ups approved of the case. But the higher-ups say it was all the brainchild of rogue ATF officials in Phoenix.

Also being singled out for blame in Project Gunwalker are former US Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, his assistant Emory Hurley, and former Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson.

The draft report is expected to be released within the next few weeks. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has scheduled a hearing for September 11th on the report and has asked DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to testify. In a letter sent to Horowitz on Friday, August 24th, Issa warned the DOJ about taking a longer than usual amount of time to review the draft report.

As to the conclusions of the draft report and who leaked it to Sharyl Attkission, Mike Vanderboegh had this comment:

Well, there’s a big surprise. You didn’t think Kevin O’Reilly’s name would come up, did you? Ask yourself just one thing. Who is in a position to read and leak the contents of this report which is not yet final and hasn’t been seen outside the executive branch? Someone who is interested in what the military calls, IPB — “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace.”

Project Gunwalker – Let’s Go To The Tape

Andre Howard of Lone Wolf Trading Company in Glendale, AZ is not stupid. After being forced to cooperate with the ATF agents runnings Operation Fast and Furious, he took the smart step to record some of his conversations with one of the lead agents in the operation, ATF Agent Hope McAllister.

These tapes have been turned over by Mr. Howard to the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General and to Congressional investigators. In the tape below obtained by Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News, Howard and McAllister are discussing the third firearm that turned up at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. The transcript of the tape can be found on the CBS News website above.

If you may recall, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich have all said that that the DOJ Office of Inspector General should be the lead investigator into whether there was any wrongdoing in Operation Fast and Furious. Sharyl Attkisson reports today that the OIG is reported to have passed these tapes along to one of the subjects of the investigation – the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Arizona.

Law enforcement sources and others close to the Congressional investigation say the Justice Department’s Inspector General obtained the audio tapes several months ago as part of its investigation into Fast and Furious.

Then, the sources say for some reason the Inspector General passed the tapes along to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona: a subject in the investigation. It’s unclear why the Inspector General, who is supposed to investigate independently, would turn over evidence to an entity that is itself under investigation. The Inspector General’s office had no immediate comment.

I am speculating here but one explanation as to why OIG turned over evidence to the U.S. Attorney’s Office would be so as to coach their testimony whether before OIG investigators or before Congressional investigators.

The role of OIG in this investigation is and has been tainted from the very start. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recognized this early on which is why he called for an assignment to an outside Inspector General in a letter to the head of Integrity Committee of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency back in March.

UPDATE: The DOJ OIG sent a response to CBS on why the tapes were given to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona:

A spokesman from the Office of the Inspector General today said, “The OIG officially provided the United States Attorney’s Office with a copy of the recordings in question so that the USAO could consider them in connection with the government’s disclosure obligations in the pending criminal prosecutions of the gun traffickers. Prior to receiving the tapes, the OIG made clear that we would have to provide a copy of the recordings to the United States Attorney’s Office because they would need to review them to satisfy any legal disclosure obligations.”