Justice Department Internal ‘Fast and Furious’ Probe Clears Holder

By Fred Lucas | September 19, 2012 | 5:37 PM EDT

Attorney General Eric holder speaks to reporters following his meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

(CNSNews.com) – The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General cleared Attorney General Eric Holder of having any role or knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious, the gun sting operation in which the department allowed 2,000 guns to flow from legal gun dealers to Mexican drug cartels.

“We determined that Attorney General Holder did not learn about Operation Fast and Furious until late January or early February 2011 and was not aware of allegations of ‘gun walking’ in the investigation until February,” the inspector general report said.

“We found no evidence that Department or ATF staff informed the Attorney General about Operation Wide Receiver or Operation Fast and Furious prior to 2011. We concluded that the Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff, the Acting Deputy Attorney General, and the leadership of the Criminal Division failed to alert the Attorney General to significant information about or flaws in those investigations,” the report added.

The operation began in September 2009 and was halted in December 2010 after two of the guns from the operation were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

In June, the House voted in a decisive bipartisan majority to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide thousands of documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that is investigating the scandal.

The House oversight committee will have a hearing Thursday morning at 9:30, in which DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz will answer questions about the final report.

“Although the Office of the Attorney General received various weekly reports from components in the Department that mentioned Operation Fast and Furious, we found that Attorney General Holder did not personally review these reports at the time that his office received them and that his staff did not highlight them for his review,” the report continued.

“Moreover, we determined that these reports did not refer to agents’ failure to interdict firearms or include information that otherwise provided notice of the improper strategy and tactics that ATF agents were using in the investigation,” the report said.

“Although the National Drug Intelligence Center reports (NDIC) referred to 1,500 firearms that Celis-Acosta and straw purchasers had trafficked to Mexican drug cartels, the reports did not state or suggest that ATF had advance knowledge of the firearms purchases or otherwise knowingly allowed the guns to cross the border,” it added.

The report was critical of the operation, but limited blame to the Phoenix division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix.

“Our review of Operation Fast and Furious and related matters revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment, and management failures that permeated ATF Headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona,” the report said.