The 512-page report concluded that the Fast and Furious operation and its predecessor begun in the second Bush administration, Operation Wide Receiver, were "seriously flawed in several respects." The operations were undertaken "without adequate regard for the risk it posed to public safety in the United States and Mexico," investigators said, adding that there were problems with the use of certain informants.
Investigators further criticized the lack of oversight from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials.
"Although both Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious should have qualified as 'sensitive' investigations given the 'international implications' involving Mexico and their non-traditional strategies and tactics, neither case received the type of oversight from ATF Headquarters the procedures seemed to contemplate," investigators noted.
Immediately following the report's release, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the immediate retirement of Kenneth Melson, the former Acting Director at ATF, as well as the resignation of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, a longtime career prosecutor.
Operation Fast and Furious, and its predecessor, entailed ATF investigators allowing guns to be sold in the United States to illegal buyers, with the hopes that the guns could ultimately be tracked to Mexican drug cartel leaders.
Justice Department investigators, while acknowledging that ATF has instituted "significant and helpful reforms" following the collapse of Fast and Furious, added that "more rigorous oversight" of the agency is still needed. On Thursday, some of that oversight will occur in the latest hearing conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
"The Inspector General’s report confirms findings by Congress’ investigation of a near total disregard for public safety in Operation Fast and Furious," Issa said, adding that "it’s time for President Obama to step in and provide accountability for officials at both the Department of Justice and ATF who failed to do their jobs."
Nonetheless, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California declared the report as a vindication of sorts.
"It confirms what has long been known – that the Attorney General and his leadership team were not involved with and did not know about the flawed tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. It also confirmed that the ill-conceived and botched ‘gun walking’ operations were begun under the Bush Administration," Schiff said.