Rep. Darrell Issa
(CBS News) Republican congressional investigators place much of the blame for the ATF "Fast and Furious" scandal on at least three Justice Department officials and five ATF agents - particularly then-Special Agent in Charge in the Phoenix division William Newell - in a draft report expected to be released in final form sometime this week.
The report, obtained by CBS News, lays much of the blame for the creation and execution of the gunwalking scheme on Newell. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Newell's actions are described as "reckless," adding that he appears to still believe he did nothing wrong. He has since moved on to other duties.
The others singled out for blame of some kind in the report include: Kenneth Melson, acting ATF director; William Hoover, deputy ATF director; Mark Chait, assistant director for field operations at the ATF; William McMahon, deputy assistant director for field operations - West, ATF; Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona; Emory Hurley, Assistant United States Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona; and Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division.
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The congressional report is focused on an offshoot of the ATF's "Project Gunrunner," which was a national initiative under the Justice Department started in 2006 aimed at reducing U.S.-Mexico cross-border violence and trafficking of weapons and drugs.
"Fast and Furious" is the name ATF assigned to a group of Phoenix-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 congressional investigation into the scandal is being led by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.