Fast & Furious firings coming: WSJ

posted at 11:21 am on December 5, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Very quietly, the efforts to find accountability on Operation Fast and Furious have begun to produce at least some low-level results.  The Wall Street Journal reported last night that an internal review has recommended firings and demotions for several figures in the Department of Justice involved in the program that sent thousands of weapons over the southern border and into the hands of drug cartels, resulting in hundreds of murders:

Four senior managers who oversaw the ill-fated federal gun-trafficking probe called “Fast and Furious” will be fired if recommendations from a disciplinary panel are accepted.

People familiar with the matter said the Professional Review Board of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent notices of its decision in recent days to bureau managers. In addition, two lower-level employees face disciplinary actions, short of firings. The move from the ATF’s review board is the first step in what could be a months-long process, including appeals.

The panel’s recommendations go to high-level ATF managers who will decide whether to accept them. That decision can be appealed to an outside board that oversees civil-service workers. …

The managers recommended for termination, according to people familiar with the matter, are Mark Chait, former assistant director for field operations; William McMahon, who oversaw field operations in the Western U.S.; William Newell, former chief of the ATF’s Phoenix office; and George Gillett, the No. 2 official in the ATF’s Phoenix office.

This comes after the departure of a much more high-level official on Monday.  Gary Grindler, who served as Attorney General Eric Holder’s chief of staff, got blamed by the Inspector General for not informing Holder that OF&F weapons had been linked to the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, as OF&F expert Katie Pavlich pointed out yesterday:

“We determined that Grindler learned on December 17, 2010, of the link between weapons found at the Terry murder scene and Operation Fast and Furious but did not inform the Attorney General about this information. We believe that he should have informed the Attorney General as well as made an appropriate inquiry of ATF or the U.S. Attorney’s Office about the connection. Grindler told us that he was relying on the FBI to investigate the homicide and that would include investigation of the weapons in question. We found that Grindler’s reliance on the FBI was misplaced given that it did not have the responsibility to determine whether errors in ATF’s investigation led to the weapons ending up at the murder scene or why ATF failed to take law enforcement action against Avila for nearly one year and did so only after Agent Terry’s murder. We also believe that Grindler should have ensured that the Department of Homeland Security was informed about the linkage.” (p. 454)

Darrell Issa hailed Grindler’s departure, and promised more disciplinary actions will be forthcoming:

“Gary Grindler was appropriately faulted by his Department’s own Inspector General for keeping information about a connection between the murder of a Border Patrol Agent and a mishandled department operation away from the Attorney General and the Department of Homeland Security.  His departure from the Justice Department is warranted and long overdue,” Issa said. “Other figures in Operation Fast and Furious are currently being evaluated for their conduct in the reckless effort that needlessly placed lives in danger.  I expect more departures and discipline to come.”

Don’t expect all of these people to just go away quietly, either.

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