ATF Agents linked to ‘Fast and Furious’ Still Employed despite Agency Recommendation
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is asking for details of disciplinary actions taken against Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) employees who were involved in Operation Fast and Furious. While some personnel have been disciplined for misconduct, some agents have not faced consequences recommended by the agency’s Professional Review Board (PRB). In at least two instances dating back to 2012, the PRB called for the removal of agents who displayed “poor judgement” in their involvement with an investigation of a Fast and Furious whistleblower, yet those agents remained employed by ATF in 2014. Other agents were reassigned but remained in positions of authority. The Acting Director of ATF during Operation Fast and Furious was removed from his position, however, began the following day as a Senior Advisor in the Department of Justice.
In a letter to ATF Director B. Todd Jones, Grassley and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested records related to disciplinary actions and settlement agreements for nine ATF employees who were responsible for Operation Fast and Furious, the failed gunwalking program linked to the 2010 murder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer, Brian Terry. Grassley has previously raised concerns about the inadequate disciplinary actions taken against key players in the operation.
A signed copy of the letter is available here. Text of the letter can be found below.
March 26, 2015
The Honorable B. Todd Jones
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
99 New York Avenue NE
Washington, D.C. 20226
Dear Director Jones:
The Committees are reviewing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ effort to address employee misconduct related to Operation Fast and Furious. As you know, the Committees, and the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General found that ATF employees in Phoenix and Washington bore responsibility for the conduct of Operation Fast and Furious and that the Justice Department failed to adequately supervise ATF’s conduct of the case. In a 2012 ATF Professional Review Board report we recently obtained, the Board concluded that “the Bureau has the right to expect its employees to exhibit high standards of ethical, personal and professional behavior.” However, ATF has failed to demonstrate to the Congress and public that it has upheld those high standards by taking corrective action against the individuals identified by the Committees and the Inspector General.
Many of those individuals have retired, been removed from leadership positions, or were otherwise reassigned. In an April 1, 2014 letter to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from Assistant Director James H. Burch, ATF provided a brief summary of personnel actions against eight individuals with involvement in the Fast and Furious operation. It remains unclear, however, whether and to what extent additional disciplinary actions were taken. For example, documents from the ATF’s Professional Review Board dated November 30, 2012 indicate that the Board recommended that Special Agents George Gillett and William Newell be terminated from federal service based on their “poor judgment” in relation to the arson investigation of a Fast and Furious whistleblower. Yet, the April 1, 2014 letter to Chairman Issa shows that William Newell remains an employee of the Bureau.
For a more thorough understanding of the disciplinary actions ATF administered to individuals who bore responsibility for Operation Fast and Furious, please provide to the Committees the following information for each of the current and former ATF employees identified below:
(1) a description of any disciplinary action, including any proposed or executed settlement agreements;
(2) the effective date of any disciplinary action, resignation, termination, or retirement;
(3) whether the individual is still employed by ATF, and if so, his current title and duty station; and
(4) a detailed explanation of why ATF failed to implement each of the recommendations of the PRB, including the recommendations that Gillette and Newell be terminated.
Also, please provide all records related to any potential disciplinary action, including copies of all settlement agreements negotiated or executed between ATF and the following employees. The following individuals are identified by title at the time Operation Fast and Furious was an active operation:
1. Acting Director Kenneth Melson;
2. Acting Deputy Director William Hoover;
3. Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait;
4. Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon;
5. Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell;
6. Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division George Gillett;
7. Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division James Needles;
8. Phoenix Group VII Supervisor David Voth; and,
9. Special Agent Hope MacAllister
When producing documents to the Committees, please deliver production sets as follows: to the Majority Staff in Room 2157 of the Rayburn House Office Building and the Minority Staff in Room 2471 of the Rayburn House Office Building for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and to Majority Staff in Room 224 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Please provide all documents in electronic format. An attachment to this letter provides additional information about responding to the Committees’ request. As an additional reminder, the Privacy Act authorizes the disclosures requested in this letter under 5 U.S.C. § 552a(b).
If you have any questions about this request, please contact Jessica Donlon or Henry Kerner of the Oversight Committee Staff at (202) 225-5074, and Katherine Nikas at (202) 224-5225 of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary staff. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Jason Chaffetz Charles E. Grassley
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives U.S. Senate
cc: Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Minority Member
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform