- 21 сентября 2012, 21:44
- POLITICO. TOP 10 Blogs
The House Oversight Committee says a new Justice Department report on Operation Fast and Furious contradicts the conclusions of a landmark six-month investigation published by Fortune Magazine, and is calling on the magazine to retract the story.
The article, by Katherine Eban, states that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco, and Firearms "never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels." Published in June, it was widely viewed as a game changer on the Fast and Furious case, as it contradicted accusations made by House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa, who said that law-enforcement agents purposefully trafficked illegal firearms.
"[F]ive law-enforcement agents directly involved in Fast and Furious tell Fortune that the ATF had no such tactic," Eban reported at the time. "Just the opposite: They say they seized weapons whenever they could but were hamstrung by prosecutors and weak laws, which stymied them at every turn."
Eban reviewed "more than 2,000 pages of confidential ATF documents and interviewed 39 people, including seven law-enforcement agents with direct knowledge of the case," and reported that the case against ATF supervisor Dave Voth and his colleagues was "replete with distortions, errors, partial truths, and even some outright lies."
But this week's DOJ report claims otherwise. On Page 434 of the report, the Inspector General writes that the supervisor's approach "drove the lack of overt action against the straw purcahsers, including making seizures and arrests." The report continues:
We did not find persuasive evidence to support Voth's claim that this approach and ATF's continued adherence to it in the face of alarming purchasing activity was solely grounded in disputes with Hurley's legal guidance during the case. In fact, if Voth truly felt the frustration during the case that he asserted to us with respect to seizures and arrests, his deficiencies as a supervisor were even more significant because we did not find persuasive evidence that his managers at ATF or those responsible for the case at the U.S. Attorney's Office were made aware of these misgivings. Instead, Voth's communications to these individuals reflected his full support for the case and his belief that "we are righteous in our plan to dismantle this entire organization and to rush in to arrest any one person without taking into account the entire scope of the conspiracy would be ill advised to the overall good of the mission."
Following the release of the report, the House Oversight Committee told POLITICO that the report, and that passage specifically, "firmly rejects Eban's conclusions."
"The Fortune story was irresponsible journalism. It presented highly biased accounts as undisputed and selectively omitted key known facts that undermined the author's conclusions," Frederick R. Hill, a spokesman for the House Oversight Committee, wrote in an email. "Eban's story wrongly smeared agency whistleblowers and foolishly accepted as fact contentions from a tainted source that guns were never walked."
Eban disagrees. In a column for Fortune published online today, she argues that the Inspector General's report "appears to corroborate a number of Fortune's findings: that there was no conspiracy to walk guns, no higher-up plan to do so and that walking guns was not the goal of the investigation, but rather a response to 'legal and tactical' circumstances on the ground, as the report states." (Eban referred POLITICO to her post, which was then forthcoming, when asked for comment regarding the DOJ report.)
"The report differs from Fortune's findings in its conclusion as to why relatively few guns were seized," she continues. "While the report details and disparages the restrictive standards used by Arizona federal prosecutors in straw purchasing cases, it concludes that those standards were not a principal impediment to gun seizures, as ATF supervisors in Phoenix contend."
"The facts presented by Fortune do not appear to be in dispute, but on this point the Inspector General has drawn a different conclusion from them," she concludes.
In response to that post, Hill told POLITICO: "If they gave out Pulitzer prizes for understatement, Eban's admission that her story's conclusions 'differ' from the reality other investigations found about Operation Fast and Furious would win. This kind of misleading and highly opinionated narrative masquerading as objective mainstream journalism is an example of why many Americans distrust what they're told by the media."
"Fortune and its editors should retract the story and apologize to the whistleblowers Eban smeared," he wrote.