WASHINGTON — Republican congressional investigators have concluded that five senior ATF officials — from the special agent-in-charge of the Phoenix field office to the top man in the bureau’s Washington headquarters — are collectively responsible for the failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation that was “marred by missteps, poor judgments and inherently reckless strategy.”
The investigators, in a final report likely to be released later this week, also unearthed new evidence that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix initially sought to hide from the Mexican government the crucial information that two Fast and Furious firearms were recovered after the brother of a Mexican state attorney general was killed there.
According to a copy of the report obtained Monday by The Times, the investigators said their findings are “the best information available as of now” about the flawed gun operation that last month led to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. being found in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents.
Two more final reports, they said, will deal with “the devastating failure of supervision and leadership” at the Department of Justice and an “unprecedented obstruction of the [congressional] investigation by the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the attorney general himself.”
The first report did allege some Justice Department involvement, however, notably that Kenneth E. Melson, then acting ATF director, was made into a “scapegoat” for Fast and Furious after he told congressional Republicans his Justice Department supervisors “were doing more damage control than anything” else once Fast and Furious became public.
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