U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday released the following statement regarding Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious:
“I have reviewed the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious and the key conclusions are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now:
– The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006;
– The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and
– The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it.
“Beginning in 2011 – shortly after public concerns were first raised about Operation Fast and Furious – I referred this matter to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Throughout the next several months, I instituted significant policy reforms, stronger internal controls and made key personnel changes to prevent the flaws that plagued this investigation, as well as the earlier investigation, Operation Wide Receiver, from recurring. I’m pleased that the OIG report appropriately recognizes these reforms.
“Based upon the information in the OIG report and other related information, I am also announcing additional personnel changes today.
[Updated at 2:31 p.m. ET] Fourteen employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Justice Department face disciplinary action for their roles in the botched Fast and Furious weapons-tracking program, according to a report released Wednesday by department investigators. No criminal charges are recommended, according to the report.
The program was doomed by a "series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment and management failures" on the part of line agents, prosecutors and senior Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington, Justice Department investigators concluded in a report released Wednesday.
The report does not recommend any criminal sanctions against individuals in connection with the controversial gun-trafficking operation.
The report finds that Attorney General Holder was not informed of the controversial ATF operation until 2011 after the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
"I have reviewed the Office of the Inspector General’s report on Operation Fast and Furious and the key conclusions are consistent with what I, and other Justice Department officials, have said for many months now: The inappropriate strategy and tactics employed were field-driven and date back to 2006; The leadership of the Department did not know about or authorize the use of the flawed strategy and tactics; and The Department’s leadership did not attempt to cover up information or mislead Congress about it," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Holder said he has accepted the resignations of Kenneth Melson, the former acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein in connection with their roles in the Fast and Furious weapons-tracking program.
"Today’s report affirms the problem of gunwalking was a field-driven tactic that dated back to the previous Administration, and it was this Administration’s Attorney General who ended it," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement. "Nevertheless, The Justice Department has taken strong steps to ensure accountability and make sure this does not happen again, including important administrative, policy, and personnel changes. If Republicans still have any legitimate questions about Fast and Furious, this 450-page report answers them. In light of this thorough report and Congress’s 16 month-long investigation, Republicans have no excuse to keep wasting time and taxpayer resources on politically-motivated, election-year attacks."
The botched investigation was designed to track trafficking kingpins responsible for illegal gunrunning to Mexico. It has been blamed for contributing to crimes - including the high-profile slaying of a U.S. border agent - and has become a partisan bone of contention heading into the November elections.
The report is important because of its scope - it is the result of more than a year of research - and for its conclusions, which could stir even more partisan attacks, depending on its outcome. The report is expected to conclude whether the botched plan was mostly the doing of agents in Arizona, or if the Obama administration played a central role.
In the controversy over its handling, conservative Washington legislators voted down party lines to cite the U.S. attorney general - a Democrat - for contempt. It marked the first time in American history that the head of the Justice Department has been held in contempt by Congress.FULL STORY
University of North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams underwent surgery this morning to remove a tumor from his right kidney, UNC sports information director Steve Kirschner said in a statement.
“The surgery went well and according to plan,” Dr. Eric Wallen, professor of urology at UNC, said in a statement. “Coach Williams did great. I fully expect him to coach this season and for years to come. He could miss some practice time if we perform another procedure sometime in October, but he would be able to resume his coaching duties prior to the start of the regular season.”
The school said the tumor was found during a physical earlier this month. The surgery took three and a half hours, the school said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Williams and his family for a full recovery,” says UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “Obviously his health and prognosis are my greatest concerns. He’s in great hands with the medical staff at UNC Hospitals. The basketball team is also in outstanding hands with Steve Robinson, CB McGrath, Hubert Davis and Joe Holladay. As Coach Williams frequently says, he has the best staff in the country and I know they will do an excellent job as Coach Williams recuperates. We will be ready for his return as soon as he is able to do so, but I have stressed to him that he returns only when he has been given the medical approval and he is ready to do that. Hopefully that will be soon and for a long, long time to come.”
Williams is set to begin his 10th season as the head coach of the UNC Tar Heels. He has the fourth highest winning percentage in college basketball and is first among active coaches.
The Italian Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the convictions of 23 Americans who were found guilty in absentia three years ago in connection with the 2003 kidnapping of a terror suspect in Milan.
The Americans, many of whom were thought to have worked for the United States' CIA, never appeared for trial and are not in Italian custody. The Italian government hasn't asked for their extradition.
The case centered on the "extraordinary rendition" of a Muslim cleric, Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, or Abu Omar. He was seized on the streets of Milan, Italy, in 2003, transferred to Egypt and tortured, he said. He was suspected of recruiting men to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and was under heavy surveillance by Italy's intelligence agency.
Prosecutors said he was nabbed by a CIA team working with Italian intelligence officials.
The trial was the first to deal with a practice that human rights groups call "extraordinary rendition." They say the United States has often sent suspects to countries that practice torture. Washington acknowledges making secret "rendition" transfers of terrorism suspects between countries but denies using torture or handing suspects over to countries that do.
A total of 22 Americans were each sentenced to five years in prison for their role in his abduction. Another – Robert Seldon Lady, whom prosecutors said was the CIA station chief in Milan – was sentenced to eight years in jail.
Former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer told CNN in the past that the Italian military secret service had approved the operation involving Hassan, and CIA sources who refused to be named told CNN in 2005 that the agency had briefed and sought approval from its Italian counterpart for such an abduction.
The Italian government at the time – which was led by Silvio Berlusconi – vigorously denied having authorized Hassan's kidnapping, which it called illegal.FULL STORY
David A. Rice feels like Mitt Romney wrote him off.
The 61-year-old has always been a values-based voter, generally votes Republican and could be a key vote in the swing state of Florida. But he's also among the 47% of Americans that Mitt Romney said don't pay income tax and rely on government support.
"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney says in a clip from a secretly filmed private donor meeting in May, which was first posted on Monday afternoon. "There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
Rice says he is working part-time and doesn't pay taxes because he can't find a good job. And the fact that Romney wrote him off in those comments is frustrating.
"I am insulted. I support you and you just wrote me off with the 47% who pay no taxes. In that group are those who cry every time they use food stamps; people who would trade them in a minute for a real job. In that group are Christians who shudder at the thought of voting for abortion and gay rights," he wrote in an iReport. "You have strengths that appeal to the demographic you just wrote off ... use it! In the middle of rich supporters you cannot afford to write off a huge group with a careless word."
The 61-year-old said that he has been forced once or twice to take food stamps - and unlike what Romney contends in his comments - he maintains it was not something he was proud of or hopes to ever have to do again.
"It really hurt me," the iReporter told CNN. "It was not something that I wanted to do, I did it because I didn't have a job."
Rice says he didn't think it was right for Romney to lump every low-income person into the same group.
"Not everyone who takes food stamps is a food stamps junkie," Rice told CNN. "There are people who think the government owes them a living and that the government ought to take care of them and be their momma and daddy all their life. That doesn't apply to everyone."
It all left Rice a bit uneasy.
Which leads to the big questions swirling around the Romney campaign: How much damage will Romney's comments do to his chances for winning the election? Were his comments a big enough gaffe, combined with previous missteps, to really dent his campaign? Were his comments just the brutal truth others don't want to hear? Will it sway the votes of Republicans, independents or the undecided?
The space shuttle Endeavour began its final aerial show Wednesday, thrilling spectators across the southern United States.
After a two-day delay because of weather conditions, Endeavour began its cross-country flight Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Los Angeles, where the now-retired spacecraft will be put on display. FULL POSTFULL STORY
Lindsay Lohan was arrested early Wednesday morning in New York, accused of leaving the scene of an accident, police said.
A spokesman for the New York Police Department told CNN the actress was arrested around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and taken to New York’s 10th Precinct police station, where she was processed and released on her own recognizance. CNN has reached out to Lohan's rep for comment. FULL POSTFULL STORY
Tourists Karin Bowerman, 27, of Wisconsin, and Cathy Huynh, 26, of Ontario, died mysteriously just days apart this summer in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Since then, family and friends have waited anxiously for the autopsy results.
Speculation on the women’s cause of death ranged from alcohol poisoning to insecticide poisoning. But authorities are now saying there were no traces of toxins in Bowerman’s blood or gastric fluids, according to the Tuoi Tre News, an English-language news site operated by Vietnam’s largest newspaper.
“She died from breathing failures, circulatory collapse due to brain edema,” Lt. Col. Nguyen Hong Ky, deputy head of the Nha Trang police department, told Tuoi Tre News. Brain edema is a buildup of fluid in the brain. The official autopsy report has not been publicly released.
On July 30, Bowerman and Huynh were admitted to Khanh Hoa General Hospital; both were vomiting, had difficulty breathing and showed signs of severe dehydration.
Bowerman died later that night. Huynh was released from the hospital and died two days later. Bowerman’s body underwent an autopsy in Vietnam, according to her family, while Huynh’s body was returned to Canada to be examined in Hamilton, Ontario.
Tuoi Tre News reported earlier that Bowerman’s medical samples had not been sent to Hanoi, Vietnam, for testing as late as two weeks after her death. The director of the local forensic examination center told Tuoi Tre News that the wait period could affect the results, even if the samples were well preserved.
The autopsy results from Huynh are not expected for several weeks.
French embassies and schools will be closed in about 20 countries Friday as a security precaution, French Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday, after the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons apparently depicting the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.
Magazine director Stephane Charbonnier said his staff is "not really fueling the fire," but rather using its freedom of expression "to comment (on) the news in a satirical way."
"It happens that the news this week is Mohammed and this lousy film, so we are drawing cartoons about this subject," Charbonnier told CNN affiliate BFM-TV on Wednesday. "It's more turning in derision this grotesque film than to make fun of Mohammed."
The "lousy film" he's referring to is "Innocence of Muslims," an amateurish, 14-minute video that mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer. The video drew international attention last week and spawned heated protests in more than a dozen countries.FULL STORY
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy campaigner who was kept under house arrest for years by the country's military rulers, is due to receive the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in Washington on Wednesday.
The honor is one of the highlights of a 17-day tour of the United States by Suu Kyi, who was freed in 2010 and elected to the Myanmar parliament this year, a historic moment in the incipient political reforms under way in the Southeast Asian nation.
Congress awarded the medal, its "highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions," to Suu Kyi in May 2008, but she has only now been able to make her first visit to the United States in decades to receive it.
She joins a list of recipients that includes George Washington, Nelson Mandela and Frank Sinatra.
Over the next two weeks, Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet with high-level American officials, as well as democratic activists.FULL STORY