(CBS News) The Inspector General (IG) draft report on Fast and Furious heaps blame on the Phoenix-based staff of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) according to those familiar with the document.
A year and a half in the making, the report examines Operation Fast and Furious, which began under the Obama administration, and the smaller Operation Wide Receiver which started under the Bush administration and was prosecuted under the Obama administration. In both cases, ATF agents allowed guns to "walk" or fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. The idea was to see where the guns ended up and catch a "big fish" of a cartel.
The IG's report is expected to be publicly released in the next few weeks.
Those familiar with the contents say ATF Phoenix officials shoulder much blame, including then-Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell, the lead Fast and Furious case agent Hope MacAllister, and group supervisor David Voth.Continue »
(CBS News) Four former U.S. military advisors in Afghanistan testified to Congress Tuesday that the Army general in charge of the NATO Training Mission there tried to delay an investigation into alleged human suffering and corruption at Dawood National Military Hospital, funded primarily with U.S. tax dollars.
The military whistleblowers, two of them still on active duty, say they discovered "Auschwitz"-like atrocities in 2010 at the hospital for wounded Afghan soldiers: open vats of blood draining from soldier's wounds, feces on the floor, and Afghan doctors and nurses demanding bribes to provide patients with food and basic care. According to the witnesses, patients routinely starved to death, were operated on without sedatives, and died of simple infections.
Army Colonel Mark Fassl was NATO's Training Mission Afghanistan Command Inspector General in 2010. He says when he requested the inspector general to investigate the hospital, he was admonished by the three-star general in charge, Lt. General William Caldwell.
"His first response to me was 'how could we make that request with elections coming?'" Fassl told a House oversight subcommittee Tuesday.Continue »
(CBS News) Congressional investigators and observers in the U.S. military allege that injured Afghan soldiers at Dawood National Military Hospital routinely died of simple infections and were allegedly even starved to death as Afghan doctors and nurses demanded bribes for food and basic care. Congressional investigators and the Inspector General are looking into whether some military officials took steps to cover up investigations into the hospital's conditions.
At least $180 million was spent by the U.S. government on the hospital over nine years, according to congressional investigators.
U.S. officials began documenting rampant corruption at the hospital as far back as 2006 including stolen pharmaceuticals and counterfeit medicine being used on Afghan soldiers. By 2010, military officials on site began documenting maggots on open wounds, patients starved for weeks, surgery performed with no sedatives and bedsores so deep that bones showed through.
Several military whistleblowers have told congressional investigators that some military higher-ups, including Lt. General William Caldwell, took steps to delay investigations into the hospital in 2010 because it might prove politically embarrassing. The Pentagon didn't comment on behalf of Lt. Gen. Caldwell, stating "we do not comment on matters currently being investigated by the Inspector General."Continue »
(CBS News) Two Fast and Furious whistleblowers have reportedly been placed under the supervision of an ATF official who allegedly threatened to "take them down."
That's according to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) who have asked the Inspector General to immediately investigate.Continue »
The Justice Department approved the wiretap application on March 15, 2010. It includes a lengthy affidavit giving details of the case. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) contends that was enough to alert anyone who read it that a massive amount of "gunwalking" was going on. The affidavit describes in detail how ATF agents had surveilled multiple suspected gun traffickers for Mexican drug cartels, but made no arrests or interdictions. Previously, Holder had testified that the wiretap application gave no hint of gunwalking.
"Contrary to the Attorney General's statements, the enclosed wiretap affidavit contains clear information that agents were willfully allowing known straw buyers to acquire firearms for drug cartels and failing to interdict them-in some cases even allowing them to walk to Mexico. In particular, the affidavit explicitly describes the most controversial tactic of all: abandoning surveillance of known straw purchasers, resulting in the failure to interdict firearms," says Issa.
Issa's counterpart on the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), today took issue with the idea that the wiretap application disclosed any hint of gunwalking. He says Issa is "hiding key information" from the very same wiretap documents.
"Sadly, it looks like Mr. Issa is continuing his string of desperate and unsubstantiated claims... His actions demonstrate a lack of concern for the facts, as well as a reckless disregard for our nation's courts and federal prosecutors who are trying to bring criminals to justice. We're not going to stoop to his level," said a Cummings spokesman.
But the former head of ATF, Kenneth Melson, appeared to support the Republican position on the wiretaps when he testified to Congressional investigators on July 4, 2011. Melson said that he read through the Fast and Furious wiretap applications after the scandal broke publicly and "it was apparent to me that (ATF agents) were suggesting that there was probable cause to believe that this information-that these straw purchasers were taking guns across the border."Continue »
(CBS News) It was number 17 on the White House's 100 Recovery Projects That Are Changing America list. Now, Abound Solar is about to join the taxpayer-supported green energy firms that have filed for bankruptcy.
Abound Solar was approved for a $400 million dollar taxpayer loan guarantee under the same program as did now-bankrupt Solyndra. Abound received about $70 million of the total by last Sept., but failed to meet certain financial milestones and the Energy Department cut off the rest of the loan.
The Department of Energy announced news of Abound's impending bankruptcy in an article on its Website defending solar energy entitled "Solar Manufacturing: to Compete or Not to Compete."
Abound Solar was strongly supported by politicians in both parties. Its Indiana plant was supposed to create a thousand full time jobs and generate "several hundred million dollars in revenue." Backers included Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Representatives Dan Burton (R-IN), Pete Visclosky (D-IN), Mark Souder (R-IN), Mike Pence (R-IN), Baron Hill (D-IN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) and Andre Carson (D-IN). Abound laid off 280 workers last February and reportedly will lay off 125 more next week.Continue »
What is "gunwalking"?
"Gunwalking" is law enforcement vernacular for the concept of allowing criminal suspects to "walk" off with guns, without police interdicting or tracking them. It's widely considered taboo, since "walked" guns may be used in violent crimes, including murders.
What is "Project Gunrunner"?
"Project Gunrunner" is a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) national initiative under the Justice Department started in 2006 aimed at reducing US-Mexico cross-border drug and gun trafficking and violence.
What is "Fast and Furious"?
"Fast and Furious" is the name ATF assigned to a group of Phoenix, Arizona-area gun trafficking cases under Project Gunrunner that began in fall of 2009. It's the largest of several known operations in which ATF employed gunwalking, involving more than 2,000 weapons, including hundreds of AK-47 type semi-automatic rifles and .50 caliber rifles. According to sources who worked directly on the case, the vast majority of guns were not tracked and Mexico's government was not fully informed of the case. The ATF Special Agent in Charge of the operation was Bill Newell.Continue »
The ATF Special Agent, Bill Newell, testified to Congress in July 2011 that he's a longtime friend with then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O'Reilly. The two emailed and talked on the phone during the controversial Fast and Furious gunwalking operation, according to documents and Newell's testimony to Congress.
In one email exchange about Fast and Furious on Feb. 11, 2011 O'Reilly asked Newell, "Would ATF be willing to put you or others in front of US media that gets pickup in Mexico (CNN en Espanol, perhaps) to tell this story?"
At the time, the Justice Department and ATF were denying any gunwalking had occurred, and were looking for ways to promote stories about gun traffickers buying weapons in the U.S. and taking them to Mexico.
"Kevin as we discussed last night," answered Newell, "these are some examples of what we could get translated and use in the Mexican media . . . The 'Fast and Furious' indictment is listed under 'U.S. v Avila.'"
The two also emailed about the case in July 2010, exchanging anecdotes and photographs of gun seizures in the case.
CBS News has learned a second Inspector General (IG) is investigating Operation Fast and Furious: Homeland Security.Continue »