The director of the agency responsible for Operation Fast and Furious told a House panel Wednesday that no government officials were fired for allowing the gun-walking program to go awry, but stressed some were disciplined and others retired with pensions intact.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Todd Jones speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (AP/Susan Walsh)
Todd Jones took over as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in August 2013, well after the investigation of the botched Operation Fast and Furious had begun. It was under his watch, however, that ATF officials involved in the matter received a lesser penalty than recommended by either the Justice Department’s inspector general or the department’s professional review board.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) questioned Jones about accountability.
“Everybody at the Department of Justice from yourself to the attorney general is living under the specter of Fast and Furious and how it discredited the men and women who do these jobs otherwise right,” Issa said. “Just to make the record clear, was anyone fired as a result of Fast and Furious?”
Jones responded, “Mr. Chairman, I can say, publicly in this forum that everyone involved in the ATF in the chain of command has either been disciplined or is no longer working with the agency."
"But the answer of fired is no. Is that correct? It's a yes or no. It really is, Todd," Issa said.
Jones admitted, “As a result of the inspector general's report, the answer is no.”
Operation Fast and Furious allowed 2,000 guns to flow to Mexican drug trafficking organizations for the purpose of tracking them, but the federal government lost track of many of the weapons. The operation was halted in December 2010 when a gun from the operation was found at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
The Justice Department's inspector general had called for the firing of William Newell, who was the special agent in charge of the operation. In a settlement, Newell was demoted.
Jones said all of the personnel decisions were made by ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon.
“The process involves the bureau deciding official and the ultimate decision maker is the deputy director with appeal to me should the employee not be satisfied,” Jones said.
The DOJ's professional review board suggested a 14-day suspension for case agent Hope MacAllister, who only received a letter of reprimand, and called for group supervisor David Voth to be demoted, a suggestions that was followed by the agency.
“So, McCallister, Voth and Newell, none of them were fired,” Issa said. “All of them received certainly less than what the American people would expect.”
Though the failed operation has been out of the news for some time, Congress is still pressing the Justice Department to release documents on the matter. In a bipartisan vote in 2012, 17 Democrats joined House Republicans to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. President Barack Obama even invoked executive privilege in the course of the investigation. The matter is being fought in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Last month, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General asserted another key figure in the operation, William McMahon, was allowed to work an extra full-time job with JP Morgan while on government paid sick leave. McMahon is a former ATF deputy assistant director for field operations.
Just last week, former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who ran Operation Fast and Furious out of Arizona, was formally reprimanded and fined $1,200 by the Arizona State Bar for his targeting of a Fast and Furious whistleblower. Although Burke contended he was trying to be transparent, the Justice Department IG said there was evidence he was engaged in a retaliatory effort.