Report Alleges 'Highest Echelons' of the Justice Department Knew About Fast and Furious

Report finds "pass the buck" attitude lead to Fast and Furious.

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Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Capitol Hill.

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California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley released their second in a series of three scathing reports alleging senior justice department officials let Operation Fast and Furious go on right under their noses until it was too late.

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According to the report, guidance for the botched gun-walking scandal came from the highest levels of the Justice Department.

"Department leadership's failure to recognize Fast and Furious was a problem until it was too late was the result of a 'pass-the-buck' attitude that emanated from the highest echelons of the Department of Justice," the report says.

Attorney General Eric Holder has maintained the year-long Fast and Furious program was a local, under the radar operation created and run by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms officials in Phoenix.

An inspector general's report released last month stated that Holder did not know about Fast and Furious and never engaged in activities to conceal it.

Issa's report contradicts that inspector general's findings. Issa and Grassley argue that Holder made a series of speeches in which he called on the Justice Department to adjust its protocol from arresting individual straw gun buyers to going after the leaders of larger, smuggling networks­­--giving the Justice Department and ATF the green light to implement a program like Fast and Furious.

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In the report, Issa says that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and other top officials within Justice's criminal division allowed multiple wire tapping applications to monitor straw purchasers to be processed. The report also alleges that Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler was aware of the growing number of guns being intercepted in the operation. And other officials in that office, including Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed Siskel, continued to get updates on Operation Fast and Furious. According to the report, however, both Siskel and Grindler knew little about how ATF worked and were ill-equipped to handle the project.

Issa's report says the Attorney General's Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson, knew about and read dozens of memos related to Fast and Furious. Wilkinson allegedly wanted Holder to announce the program at a press conference during a trip to Phoenix, but "once the weapons found at [Border Patrol Agent Brian] Terry's murder scene were traced to Fast and Furious, this idea was quickly scrapped."

"Though many senior Department officials were keenly aware of Fast and Furious, no one questioned the operation," the report states. "The Criminal Division asked no questions. The Office of the Deputy Attorney General asked no questions. No one ordered that Fast and Furious be shut down. Instead, senior Department officials let it continue to grow."

Issa says that the department not only failed to stop Fast and Furious, but has failed to punish any officials, some of whom have been promoted, for the role they played in allowing the operation to go on for more than a year.

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Department of Justice officials have dismissed the report. One official told the Wall Street Journal that the report was "another pathetic attempt to politicize this without regard for or command of the facts."

Maryland Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member on the oversight committee, also expressed his disdain for the report and its timing.

"It is a shame that, [during] a national emergency, Chairman Issa is rehashing this issue by directly contradicting the inspector general, who already settled this issue definitively," Cummings said in a statement.

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  • Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at lfox@usnews.com.