But the lawmakers criticized Justice officials for not imposing harsher penalties on the 14 officials whom Horowitz said should be considered for disciplinary action. During the hearing, they singled out Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, who heads the department’s criminal division.
“We expect that all 14 would find a way to find appropriate new occupations,” Issa said.
In his report, Horowitz said his investigation “revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures that permeated ATF headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona.”
The watchdog report concluded that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. did not know about the tactics used in Fast and Furious until the operation was over. Beginning in 2004, ATF agents in Phoenix watched as gun-trafficking suspects bought hundreds of guns; the agents then let the guns “walk” so the agency could link them to a Mexican firearms-trafficking ring.
ATF only seized 100 of the weapons, losing track of about 2,000 guns, including AK-47 style rifles.
In his report, Horowitz said he “found it troubling that a case of this magnitude and that affected Mexico so significantly was not directly briefed to the Attorney General.”
Issa and other GOP lawmakers said the report does not exonerate Holder or other senior Justice Department officials for their failure to safeguard the public.
“Nothing in this report vindicates anyone,” Issa said. “If you touched, looked, could have touched, could have looked, could have asked for information that could have caused you to intervene, to complain, to worry, to talk to people and you didn’t . . . you fell short of your responsibility.”
Horowitz’s team obtained 100,000 documents, many of which Issa said were denied to the House committee, an action that led to the historic vote to hold Holder in contempt of Congress.
Among the records reviewed were 14 wiretap affidavits for Fast and Furious and another Arizona gun operation conducted in 2006 and 2007 during the George W. Bush administration. Horowitz said the applications contained “red flags” about both investigations but that none of the five deputy assistant attorneys general who reviewed them raised concerns.
Horowitz singled out one deputy, Jason Weinstein, saying that his review of the “cover memorandum” to a wiretap application, coupled with knowledge about Fast and Furious and a “heightened awareness” of similar “gun-walking” issues in Operation Wide Receiver in the spring of 2010, should have caused him to ask questions.