COMMENTARY | In a statement on Wednesday, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), B. Todd Jones, stated that the agency “accepts full responsibility for its failure to exercise proper leadership and oversight” of the investigations into what went wrong with the Fast and Furious program. It’s about time someone took responsibility, even if it wasn’t the attorney general.
The statement was in response to a just-released report from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General. According to the Associated Press, the 471-page report refers more than a dozen people for possible disciplinary action regarding their roles in Operation Fast and Furious, the earlier Wide Receiver program instituted under the Bush administration and the investigation that followed.
Blame was thick and spread far in the report, with criticisms for the ATF’s senior leadership, staff, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix and the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington. Oddly absent from the blame was Attorney General Eric Holder. The report, instead, said Holder did not know that the ATF was allowing U.S. guns to cross into Mexico in the hands of Mexican drug gang members.
In his own statement, Holder announced several personnel changes in light of the report. But he accepted no blame. Not for the program that resulted in the murder of a border patrol agent. Not for refusing to cooperate with the congressional investigation into the matter. Instead of taking responsibility, the attorney general stated, “It is unfortunate that some were so quick to make baseless accusations before they possessed the facts about these operations — accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion. I hope today’s report acts as a reminder of the dangers of adopting as fact unsubstantiated conclusions before an investigation of the circumstances is completed.”
In all likelihood, Holder didn’t know the full details of what had happened, and he stated that many of the flawed tactics took place in 2006, before he was the attorney general. But the Department of Justice is his baby now and has been for years. It was his job to find out.
Be that as it may, a bunch of resignations have been announced. A bunch of issues with policy have been brought to light and will, hopefully, be addressed. And one guy, B. Todd Jones, had the guts to stand up — even though he wasn’t director at the time when the Fast and Furious program happened — and take responsibility. It’s about time someone did.