The Inspector General for the Department of Justice testified there was a "serious lack of controls,” within the ATF and the US Attorney’s office that contributed to the failed, flawed gun-walking case, Fast and Furious.
“There were a series of failures in controls,” Michael E. Horowitz testified. “There has to be a serious review and vetting of operations like this,” he said.
Thursday, Horowitz answered dozens of questions from members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He spoke about the 512-page investigative document his office released publicly on Wednesday, which includes a similar review of another ATF case, Operation Wide Receiver.
Operation Wide Receiver, he said, also employed the use of gun-walking tactics with the approval of the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona.
“There has to be an internal change on how cases are managed there,” he said, expressing the need for increased and better oversight.
“How is it that these tactics started? What went wrong?” asked Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who at one point suggested a ban on assault weapons.
Horowitz said the agents involved in the gun-walking tactics “did not have bad motives.”
He said the people involved in the cases thought undertaking a long term effort to dismantle an entire gun and drug trafficking organization was more important than taking immediate action to stop the illegal purchase of weapons by straw buyers on behalf of known criminals.
“They had made a conscious decision that the long term effort….to dismantle a large organization was the greater good that they were undertaking, to dismantle the organization, stop the trafficking,” he said.
“As we found," Horowitz said, "That was an incorrect calculation. Law enforcement's primary objective is to protect the public. You can’t take action to let guns walk that will harm people,” Horowitz said.
Horowitz said investigators for his office found “no evidence" that the Attorney General was aware of the tactics prior the death of Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry.
The Office of the Inspector General made several recommendations to help improve coordination and communication among the different law enforcement entities within the Department of Justice. He said he will be making sure changes are implemented.
"We put out these reports not just to put out reports," he said, "but to see change happen when it needs to happen."
Horowitz said he is currently reviewing whether the ATF whistleblowers, who publicly revealed the dangerous gun tactics, were treated fairly.
"It takes a lot of courage to come forward if you are in law enforcement," he said.
DODSON SAYS THERE ARE MORE OIG CASES
John Dodson, a whistleblower who testified about the gunwalking tactics in front of the same committee last year, said he wishes he had followed his instinct when he learned of the strategy.
"I never thought it was acceptable," said Dodson.
"That's my regret," he said. "That I allowed myself to be talked into that instead of going with my gut and my instinct. That's very sobering," he said.
Dodson said he is participating in five other Inspector General investigations in which he says he was the victim of retaliation.
He said the ATF transferred him to South Carolina, where he has been doing desk work, but he would like to be transferred back to Phoenix to do ATF field work.
"In a perfect world, let me come back to Arizona and do the job you sent me out here to do in 2009," he said.
Dodson said he knows others will continue to be affected by the Fast and Furious case in the future.
"Speak up. Ask the questions," he said. "Don't settle for the 'I don't knows.' Get the answers. Their silences does you neither service nor justice."
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