The report begins with a prologue consisting of some intimate detail surrounding the ultimate decision of then Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson to testify in front of Oversight Committee staffers. It does serve to garner at least a modicum of empathy for Melson while more outrage at the actions of senior DOJ leadership, about whom Melson asserted was "running the show".
Check out the opening stanza from the Executive Summary:
Operation Fast and Furious was not a strictly local operation conceived by a rogue ATF office in Phoenix, but rather the product of a deliberate strategy created at the highest levels of the Justice Department aimed at identifying the leaders of a major gun trafficking ring. This strategy, along with institutional inertia, led to the genesis, implementation, and year-long duration of Fast and Furious.Like mad scientists concocting a toxic brew, a new strategy - that came down from on high at DOJ - to stop prosecuting straw purchasers and focus on cartels, coupled with the resurrection of the failed Operation Wide Receiver, gave birth to Fast and Furious in Phoenix.
Check out page 27 for another interesting distinction between Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious. It's revealed that in 2009, DOJ's Criminal Division assigned a prosecutor to review Wide Receiver (Laura Gwinn). In an email to that prosecutor by James Trusty (DOJ Main and liaison with prosecutors in Arizona), it was relayed that the Criminal Division's Assistant Attorney General, Lanny Breuer was "VERY interested in the Arizona gun trafficking case..." This was Wide Receiver and the report notes that no evidence was produced which showed Breuer's predecessor had ever been exposed to that operation; it appeared to have been shut down before that reality ever manifested itself.
This would mean that even with the gift of hindsight about how failed Wide Receiver had been and why it was shut down, Breuer was interested in playing with fire.
In a September 22, 2009 email that appears on page 29 of the report, Trusty tells Gwinn that "we're in good shape" if gun-walking is the only concern.
On page 39, the report has the following to say about how wiretap applications were able to get approved at the Criminal Division level of DOJ and, in so doing, makes it quite clear why Attorney General Eric Holder should be held accountable:
Put bluntly, the Department of Justice rubber stamped the most important documents in Fast and Furious. These applications authorized federal agents to continue using the very reckless tactics that Attorney General Holder and many others have condemned in recent months. Rubber stamping these applications allowed the Department plausible deniability about the evidence of gunwalking tactics contained in the applications. The senior Department officials legally obligated to sign the applications did not actually read the documents they were signing.
Congress demanded heightened scrutiny of these applications by senior officials because they are such an invasive law enforcement technique. Congress vested the power to authorize such applications in the Attorney General or certain of his subordinates, and not in a lower level Justice Department employee. To “authorize” in any meaningful sense must include a review of the document being authorized. By failing to properly read or review these applications before authorizing them, senior Department officials are undermining the law.Holder's defense in countless appearance before various Senate and House committees was that because so much crosses his desk, he couldn't possibly have been able to read them all. This defense is torpedoed in the above paragraphs. Holder knew or should have known. As such, he has no business being the Attorney General.
Another bombshell is dropped on page 49 as it is revealed that in March of 2010, the Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, who was the position's placeholder between David Ogden and James Cole - who assumed office two weeks after Brian Terry's murder - was briefed on the details of Fast and Furious. This would mean that detailed information about Fast and Furious was known by Eric Holder's immediate subordinate approximately nine months before the death of Brian Terry.
According to the report, the multiple red flags that would have been raised in any detailed briefing about Fast and Furious, at minimum, were not seen by Grindler.
On page 61, email correspondence between Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and Lanny Breuer clearly demonstrated that both men knew that guns were walking but were more concerned about how such a reality would play in the media than with the bloody consequences that should have been of an even greater concern.
This paragraph on page 73 says quite a bit:
Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler took a management approach of delegating tasks and responsibilities to his subordinates and then remaining uninvolved until problems were brought to his attention. This management style insulated him from problems occurring beneath him. Instead of accepting responsibility for his leadership shortcomings, Grindler instead passed the buck to his underlings.Considering that Grindler held the number two position at DOJ - right below Holder - at the time, he is precariously close to being the highest ranking DOJ official with direct culpability in Fast and Furious, if one is inclined to believe Holder's testimony. The decision not to manage subordinates is a decision to allow their activities to continue. The subsequent interview transcript excerpts involving testimony from Grindler is mind-numbing. His professed ignorance on multiple fronts is simply not the least bit plausible.
This particular sentence from the report says quite a bit:
Senior Justice Department officials were not eager to find out what was going on at ATF during Fast and Furious. After its failure, they were even less inclined to do so.Investigators concluded that the approach of Holder's Deputy Chief of Staff, Monty Wilkinson, was similar to that of Grindler. When it came to Fast and Furious, they were quite hands-off.
After including relevant testimony from Grindler, Wilkinson and Ed Siskel (Associate Deputy Attorney General at the time) the following conclusion appears on page 82 of the report:
The Office of the Attorney General thought that the Office of the Deputy Attorney General exercised supervision over ATF. The Deputy Attorney General thought his staff, Ed Siskel in particular, exercised supervision over ATF. Ed Siskel did not see it as his responsibility to supervise ATF—even though ATF believed that it needed to report to Ed Siskel. In other words, the management structure at Department headquarters allowed for zero oversight of ATF, with no single person believing it was their responsibility to supervise the agency.The report then focuses on Attorney General Eric Holder, who stated in an October, 2011 letter that he doesn't read all of the memos and weekly reports, that he relies on...
"Attorneys in my office and in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General to review these weekly reports..."This poses an obvious problem because the people Holder said would bring any issues to his attention operated under similar guidelines; they would only pay attention if something was brought to their attention.
How about plans for Eric Holder to participate in a press conference touting the success of the Operation Fast and Furious investigation? On page 16 of the report, it's revealed that Holder's Deputy Chief of Staff was making attempts to get his boss to appear at a press conference to speak about Fast and Furious but that the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry led to Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for Arizona, recommending against it.
Then, on page 91 of the report, we get specifics:
On December 14, 2010, before Brian Terry was killed, Holder’s Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson e-mailed Dennis Burke. The subject of the e-mail was “You available for a call today?”At 12:28pm that day, Burke sent an email saying that Holder was interested in attending the press conference about Fast and Furious. Obviously, shortly after the midnight, hours later, Brian Terry was murdered and guns from Fast and Furious were recovered at the scene.
Emails show that it was known by late in the day on December 15th about the Fast and Furious connection to Terry's murder.
On page 100 of the report is a screen shot of an email from Burke to Wilkinson dated December 21st, 2010 - five days after Terry's death - advising that Holder not attend the Fast and Furious press conference.
A striking fact in all of this is that Wilkinson testified that he didn't remember much about the communications via email with Burke in the hours and days surrounding Terry's death, which is difficult to believe after such a tragedy being tied back to an ATF operation. Terry's murder should have been a "do you remember where you were when" moments.
The investigators seemed to reach that conclusion as well, on page 102:
Although both Wilkinson and Burke testified they had no memory of phone calls or communications about Fast and Furious and Agent Terry’s death, documents suggest that there was an immediate and obvious instinct to protect the Attorney General from being associated with an obviously controversial operation.Essentially, the "collective memory loss" on the part of Holder's immediate subordinate is not the least bit believable.
The report's conclusion on page 104 is a must-read. Here is a link to the accompanying exhibits.