PHOENIX - On the same day the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice released a report reviewing ATF's flawed gun case, Fast and Furious, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the departure of two top officials from the Department of Justice.
Holder said Ken Melson, the former Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, retired after more than thirty years of employment with the Department of Justice.
Holder also announced the resignation of Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Jason Weinstein.
"Jason has dedicated much of his career to fighting violent crime and has led highly successful efforts around the country in this effort," Holder said. "The American people are safer because of his work."
The announcements come on the same day the OIG revealed "a pattern of serious failures in both ATF's and the U.S. Attorney's Office's handling the investigations and the Department of Justice's response to Congressional inquiries about those flawed operations."
The independent agency, whose mission is to uncover waste, fraud, or misconduct within the Department of Justice, revealed details from its investigation into the ATF gun-walking strategy that allowed straw buyers to purchase guns on behalf of known criminals without ATF intervention.
ATF agents testified that hundreds of those weapons were not tracked as they made their way onto the streets of Arizona and into Mexico.
Two guns linked to the case turned up at the murder scene of Brian Terry, a Border Patrol agent. A group of armed bandits shot and killed Terry in December 2010.
"The Inspector General's report confirms findings by Congress' investigation of a near total disregard for public safety in Operation Fast and Furious," said Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican Congressman who has been conducting his own investigation into the gun scandal and the manner in which the Department of Justice informed his committee and the public about the flawed tactics.
"Former Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer who heads the Criminal Division, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, and holder's own Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson are all singled out for criticism in the report," he said.
"It's time for President Obama to step in and provide accountability for officials at both the Department of Justice and ATF who failed to do their jobs," he said.
Holder also issued a statement and said the OIG's findings were consistent with what he had been saying for months.
"Beginning in 2011 - shortly after public concerns were first raised about Operation Fast and Furious - I referred this matter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG)," he said. "Throughout the next several months, I instituted significant policy reforms, stronger internal controls and made key personnel changes to prevent the flaws that plagued this investigation, as well as the earlier investigation, Operation Wide Receiver, from recurring. I'm pleased that the OIG report appropriately recognizes these reforms," he said.
Holder also said individuals found to be responsible for designing, implementing or supervising the Fast and Furious gun-walking strategy within ATF and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona would be reviewed for the possibility of a potential personnel action.
Over the weekend, the ATF whistleblower who helped spark Issa's investigation said he was anxious to read the report.
"I'm hopeful," said John Dodson, "I'm hopeful that the OIG -that that office took its oath seriously and conducted the investigation how it should've been conducted," he said, prior to the report's release.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer released the following statement Wednesday in response to the report:
With today's release of the Inspector General's investigation, it is clear that ‘failure' is the word that best describes the ill-conceived gun-walking probe known as Operation Fast & Furious.
"This 400-page report documents in tragic detail the failed judgment by federal authorities who concocted the Fast & Furious scheme; failed leadership by ATF and DOJ officials who allowed it to proceed under their watch; and failed accountability by the Obama administration in dodging questions and ducking responsibility at every turn.
"This much we now know: Operation Fast & Furious assisted in walking more than 2,000 firearms into the waiting arms of drug cartels and criminals. A slew of victims on both sides of the border were left in the wake of this operation – including U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Murdered in December 2010 while on-duty near Rio Rico, Arizona, Agent Terry's body was found near two AK-47s traced to Operation Fast & Furious.
"The most universal, basic responsibility of any federal law enforcement authority is to protect the public. So, there can be no more damning finding
than that of the Inspector General that Obama administration officials responsible for Operation Fast & Furious were guilty of ‘failure to adequately consider the risk to public safety in the United States and Mexico.'