On Wednesday, the inspector general for the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, released his findings following an 18-month investigation into the fatally flawed Operation Fast and Furious.
Dubbed by the media as the “only independent review” of the gunrunning scandal, the 500-plus-page report described the operation as being “seriously flawed and supervised irresponsibly” and singled out 14 federal employees at the DOJ and the ATF for potential sanctions.
While most of the names named in the report were underlings within each department, at least two high-ranking officials were included on the list, former ATF Director Kenneth Melson and Phoenix U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke.
Perhaps ironically, both Melson and Burke stepped down from their positions over a year ago. Burke flat out resigned and Melson was shuffled to a new position within the DOJ. Though after the publication of the report, Melson announced (today) that he would retire from the department altogether.
“While I firmly disagree with many of the speculative assumptions, conclusions and characterizations in the inspector general’s report, as the acting director of the agency I was ultimately responsible for the actions of each employee” Melson said in a statement on Wednesday.
While the report blames a selected bunch, it vindicates the head of the Justice Department and the man that many believe is ultimately responsible for Fast and Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder.
There is “no evidence that… Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation” until Congress began investigating the matter after the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in early 2011.
After the report’s release, Holder wasted no time in taking a shot at his detractors in Congress, who cited him with a contempt charge for failing to cooperate with House investigators.
“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,” Holder said in his statement.
“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,” he said.
Holder makes a good point. How can one make a determination until all the facts are known?
And with several thousand internal DOJ documents still being withheld from investigators, including the Inspector General, under Obama’s executive privilege order, how can we really know who knew what, when?
But the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter whether or not Attorney General knew about Fast and Furious prior to the investigation for him to be held culpable. Following the standard set by former ATF director Melson, he should resign on principle.
Holder should release a statement that reads:
“While I firmly disagree with many of the speculative assumptions, conclusions and characterizations made by House investigators, as the acting director of the DOJ I was ultimately responsible for the actions of each employee.”