Some materials “highly redacted”
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Director Todd Jones today met a 5 p.m. deadline to provide Congress with some information related to disciplinary action, or lack thereof, against key players involved in ATF’s Fast and Furious gunwalking case.
That’s according to an official with the House Oversight Committee who says committee members haven’t yet thoroughly reviewed the materials but that they are often “highly redacted.”
Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) set the deadline in a letter to Jones last week asking why several ATF employees blamed by the Inspector General for mismanagement or misconduct 19 months ago still work for ATF and apparently haven’t been disciplined, or if they have, why the information hasn’t been made public. The employees are: ATF Fast and Furious case agent Hope MacAllister, former ATF Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, and ATF Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell.
Read the Inspector General’s findings against MacAllister, McMahon and Newell
Issa and Grassley allege that Jones has misused the Privacy Act in the past to withhold the requested information, even though such disclosures to Congress are permitted.
In a related development, the Arizona State Bar recently recommended disciplinary action against former Justice Department U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, alleging unethical conduct for leaking confidential government documents in Fast and Furious. One of the documents Burke leaked was allegedly intended to smear the key whistleblower in Fast and Furious: ATF Special Agent John Dodson.
Burke is one of a number of officials who resigned in the wake of the scandal. He is quoted by The Arizona Republic as saying he leaked the documents in an effort to stand up for his office because doing so “was not a main priority” for the Department of Justice as the scandal unfolded. The newspaper quotes Burke as saying, “Releasing the documents led to greater transparency than was otherwise going to be provided.”
In an agreement made public last week, state bar investigators said that Burke released the documents because the Justice Department, due to its own political interests, failed to come to the defense of Burke’s office when it faced allegations that it had “failed to take actions that would have prevented the death of a federal agent.”
Burke was in charge of the U.S. Attorney’s office that oversaw the Fast and Furious gunwalking case in which ATF agents allowed thousands of weapons to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Some ATF managers who supported the controversial strategy aimed at building a major case to take down a big fish in a drug cartel blamed Burke’s office for allegedly requiring an inordinate burden of proof to prosecute gun crimes.
In December of 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona near the Mexico border by illegal immigrants armed with at least two AK-47 type rifles sold and trafficked as part of the Fast and Furious case. The Justice Department Inspector General who investigated Fast and Furious faulted Burke for the improper document leaks.
The state bar settlement concluded Burke’s misconduct in leaking documents did not cause “actual harm” to a client, and that Burke had no “selfish or pecuniary motive.” It recommends Burke receive a reprimand and pay $1,200 to cover costs.
In August of 2011, Burke gave a transcribed interview with Congressional investigators about the broader Fast and Furious strategy in which he stated, “I need to take responsibility, and this is a case, as reflected by the work of this investigation, it should not have been done the way it was done.” Burke also said, “Just as one example…one of the defendants, Patino, ended up a straw purchaser of over 700 weapons. That’s indefensible. That is not something that I’m going to defend.”
The Justice Department has refused media and Congressional requests for an accounting of where the gunwalked weapons are turning up. In addition to Fast and Furious, ATF was overseeing alleged gunwalking operations including “Too Hot to Handle” in Dallas, Texas; “Castaway” in Tampa, Florida; and cases in Evansville, Indiana; Columbus, New Mexico; and Houston, Texas.
Through sources and tracing reports, we know that three weapons turned up at crime scenes in Mexico in August of 2013. All three were WASR-10 762-calibur Romanian rifles.
In November 2012, a Fast and Furious weapon was recovered after a shootout between a Mexican drug cartel and soldiers in which a beauty queen was killed.
Two weapons used in the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico on Feb. 14, 2011 also came from suspects who were under ATF watch but not arrested at the time.
And a grenade used in a violent fight between drug cartels and Mexican police in Oct. 2013 was believed to have been connected to an alleged firearms trafficker that U.S. officials allowed to operate for years, despite significant evidence that he was moving massive amounts of grenade parts and ammunition to Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels. Three policemen and four cartel members were killed in that battle.
The House Oversight Committee is still pursuing federal court litigation after the June 2012 House of Representatives vote holding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents in Fast and Furious. President Obama exerted executive privilege to withhold information.