(CNSNews.com) – A new report on Operation Fast and Furious, the Justice Department’s failed gunrunning program, said that department officials would not give true answers to the family of slain Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
“No one at Justice Department headquarters have provided complete and accurate answers to the Terry family,” said a report released Monday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Specifically, the report cited the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel and U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis Burke.
“During their respective transcribed interviews, Monty Wilkinson stated 38 times that he ‘did not recall’ or ‘did not know,’” the oversight report continued. “In a similar fashion, Gary Grindler did so 29 times, and Ed Siskel 21 times. In two different transcribed interviews, Dennis Burke said he ‘did not recall’ or ‘did not know’ a combined total of 161 times.”
The Justice Department’s Operation Fast and Furious allowed about 2,000 guns to flow to Mexican drug cartels. The program began in fall of 2009, but was halted in December 2010 shortly after two guns from the operation were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Terry.
“The report discloses widespread management failures within the hierarchy of the Justice Department,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
“The Justice Department has yet to evaluate these management issues and implement structural changes to prevent another disaster like Operation Fast and Furious from occurring. Furthermore, the Justice Department has taken limited action against these negligent managers,” Issa added.
After the release of the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General report, only Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigned. However, the oversight committee report faults Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Grindler, Weinstein, Siskel and Wilkinson with having direct knowledge of the operation.
In June, in a bipartisan vote, the House held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to provide thousands of documents regarding why the Justice Department initially told Congress that no gun walking occurred.
The oversight report, one of several to be issued as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation, does not directly fault Holder for Fast and Furious, but it does demonstrate a connection as to why he might have had knowledge of the program.
“Deputy Chief of Staff to the Attorney General Monty Wilkinson inquired about Attorney General Holder participating in the press conference announcing the take-down of Operation Fast and Furious,” the report said.
“Both Monty Wilkinson and Gary Grindler were informed about the connection between Operation Fast and Furious and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder,” the report continued. “Grindler received detailed information about the connection. He took no action, however, to investigate the operation.”
The report added that Burke recommended against a visit by Holder after the guns at the Terry murder scene were traced back to Fast and Furious.
Burke, a politically connected figure who served as chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano when she was governor of Arizona and who as a Senate staffer in the 1990s wrote the assault weapons band, was quoted throughout the report.
In the early stages of Fast and Furious, Burke wanted to hold out for a bigger case instead of arresting the straw purchasers and closing the investigation. Burke resigned from office on Aug. 30, 2011 at the height of the investigation.
Burke told committee staff in testimony that wiretaps were unusual for a firearms case.
“You know, I think—part of my recollection was that anyone who was doing a wire outside of DEA was not a typical procedure,” he said. “The FBI obviously does wires. They do a lot of FISAs and other—but an actual wiretap like this, my recollection at the time, I did think that ATF was not an agency that had a lot of history with doing T-IIIs [wire].”
One day before Terry was killed in a gun fight along the Arizona, Mexican border – Dec. 14, 2010 -- Wilkinson and Burke exchanged e-mails about Holder coming to Arizona to announce the upcoming indictments of straw purchasers transporting guns to Mexico. The subject of one message was “Fast and Furious.” Burke wrote: “AG’[s] office is now expressing interest in the AG coming out for it.”
“The e-mail traffic that day shows that Wilkinson left Burke a voicemail message about Attorney General Holder’s plan to travel to Arizona for the press conference announcing the Fast and Furious take-down,” the report says. “Burke and Wilkinson, however, remembered the details differently. Dennis Burke, represented by personal counsel after he had left his position as U.S. Attorney, recalled that the Attorney General’s office suggested the trip.”
Committee staff asked Burke, “So this email is specifically in regard to the Attorney General coming out to join you for the take-down of Fast and Furious?” Burke answered, “Correct.”
The report said that Wilkinson said Burked wanted Holder to come to Arizona.
Committee staff asked Wilkinson, “Is that something that he reached out to you for, or you reached out to him about?”
Wilkinson answered, “I don’t see why I would have reached out to him about it.”
The report said, “Burke adamantly disputed Wilkinson’s insistence that Burke wanted the Attorney General to announce the Fast and Furious press conference. After Wilkinson contacted him about the prospect of Attorney General Holder traveling to Arizona, Burke claims he was delighted, but believed that a Fast and Furious press conference would not be the best use of Holder’s time.”
The report continued, “Shortly after the weapons from Brian Terry’s murder traced back to Operation Fast and Furious, Dennis Burke recommended against Attorney General Holder’s announcement of Fast and Furious to Monty Wilkinson.”