Fast and Furious was to track weapons from the U.S. to Mexican cartels
Instead, some 2,000 weapons were lost, with many believed to have gone to cartels
A report on the operation is to be released not later than next Tuesday
Also next Tuesday, the DOJ inspector general will testify before a House committee
The long-awaited report on the controversial ATF gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious will be issued by the Justice Department inspector general not later than next Tuesday morning.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced Tuesday that DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz will testify before the committee headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, Tuesday morning after the report has been made public.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said he will await the report to decide what disciplinary actions he will take against those determined to be responsible for the flawed investigation.
The Justice Department Tuesday had no comment on the anticipated report. Republicans have used the issue to attack Holder and the Obama Justice Department, and the release comes as the election season heats up.
Two senior ATF officials familiar with the report say they are not surprised the report is said to target ATF officials in Arizona for blame in the case.
The officials, insisting on anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the draft report, say the findings are consistent with what Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters has maintained throughout the investigation – that much of the blame lies with officials in Phoenix who developed the operation, and largely kept Washington executives in the dark.
Former U.S. Attorney in Phoenix Dennis Burke resigned over the controversy. ATF Special Agent in Charge William Newell and some of his top Phoenix associates were reassigned.
ATF officials in Arizona, however, have said they were following guidelines from ATF headquarters, which recommended the field-level officials should take steps to catch top drug cartel members who receive illegal weapons from within the United States.
When straw purchasers were allowed to leave Arizona gunshops with illegally purchased weapons, the sting operation was designed to track the weapons to the Mexican cartels. But the monitoring broke down and nearly 2,000 weapons were “lost” and many are believed to have ended up with the cartels. Two of those weapons were found at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona near the border.
Anger and embarrassment stemming from that episode led to Congressional investigations.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer acknowledged last November he had learned that guns were allowed to “walk” to Mexico, and apologized for not informing other senior Justice Department officials. A letter from Justice to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, which said no guns were allowed to walk, was retracted by Justice officials.
A standoff over internal Justice documents on which Holder and Issa could not agree to terms, prompted the House to vote a civil contempt charge against Holder. The vote along party lines was followed by the House taking the contempt issue to court, where it is expected to linger until well after the presidential election.
Two weeks ago, the inspector general provided a copy of the draft report for criticized parties to review and comment on before the final report is released, but officials who have seen it would not comment on the findings.