[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
After months of promises from the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder Monday will finally lay out at least some of the legal arguments that the Justice Department developed to support its targeted killing of a U.S. citizen with alleged terrorist ties in Yemen last year.
One official familiar with the speech said it was doubtful Holder would mention by name Anwar al-Awlaki, who was targeted in a September drone attack. Another American who was active in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Samir Khan, was not the target of the strike but was with al-Awlaki and killed at the same time.
Both the operation and the legal opinion that supported it remain classified.
Another official familiar with the speech confirmed the attorney general will discuss the legal framework on the use of lethal force. The official, who asked not to be identified because the speech is still under wraps, said the targeted-killing issue is just one aspect of a broad-ranging look at national security issues from a legal perspective.READ FULL SECURITY CLEARANCE POST
Federal agents highlighted Cyber Monday, a peak day for online shopping, by seizing 82 websites selling Chinese-made counterfeit products in a crackdown designed to severely sting criminals in the pocketbook.
The knock-off goods carrying leading U.S. and other Western brands sold for a mere fraction of the cost of authentic fashions, handbags, watches, sunglasses, shoes, scarves and other consumer goods.
"We have disrupted the sale of thousands of counterfeit items while also cutting off funds to those willing to exploit the ingenuity of others for their own personal gain," said Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder and other top federal authorities said most of the commercial websites engaged in the illegal sales were operated by Chinese firms, and the counterfeit goods were virtually all made in China.
No arrests were associated with the takedown of the websites.
[Update at 10:25 p.m.] Two suspicious packages found abroad that were bound for Jewish organizations in the United States contained a massive amount of explosive material that would have triggered a powerful blast had the suspected terror plot not been thwarted, a source close to the investigation said Friday.
[Update at 9:55 p.m.] A Yemeni diplomat in Washington says the Yemeni government has opened a full scale investigation into a suspicious device that was shipped from the country to the East Midlands Airport in the United Kingdom.
President Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, has been in discussions with Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh about how to address the threat, a senior U.S. official said.
Yemen Embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha in Washington said no UPS or FedEx flights take off or land in Yemen.
"It is way too early to rush to conclusions," Albasha said. "We have had heightened security at our airport(s) and have been working very closely on
security with our regional partners including the U.K. and U.S. since the Christmas incident" involving the accused would-be bomber now known as the "Underwear Bomber."
Meanwhile, British police sources said the discovery of the suspicious package at East Midlands Airport was the result of an intelligence tip rather than a random check.
[Update 8:54 p.m.] Synagogues across metropolitan Chicago, Illinois, began taking "appropriate precautions" Friday after officials warned them to watch out for suspicious packages from abroad, a Jewish Federation spokeswoman said.
President Obama said two packages that apparently contained explosive materials were bound for two synagogues in Chicago.
While there were "no identifiable or specific threats," an FBI official in Chicago said suspicious packages addressed to U.S. destinations found on cargo planes abroad warranted the precautions.
Read the full story on CNN.com.
[Update 8:20 p.m.] The Emirates flight that was escorted into JFK International Airport this afternoon has been cleared, FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said. Officials originally flagged flight 201 because there was cargo from Yemen aboard.
Read more on CNN.com.
[Update 8:00 p.m.] A U.S. official said it is likely that the material used in two suspicious packages bound for the United States was PETN – a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin – but testing continues to reach a definitive conclusion.
PETN was allegedly one of the components of the bomb concealed by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who is accused of trying to set off an explosion aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit, Michigan, on December 25. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is also believed to be behind that botched attack.
Declining to provide specifics, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said intelligence officials were specifically looking for such suspicious packages when the first package was found in the United Kingdom.
He later issued a statement thanking Saudi Arabia, saying the United
States is "grateful" for the country's help in identifying the threat.
German carmaker Daimler AG and three of its subsidiaries pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court in Washington to bribing government officials with tens of millions of dollars in Russia, China and 20 other countries, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
Three Guantanamo Bay prison detainees have been flown to the nation of Georgia and handed over to the Tblisi government, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. U.S. officials did not identify those released, or say whether they expected the three men to be released by Georgian authorities.
Attorney General Eric Holder finally sent his answers from a November hearing to Senate Republicans Monday, on what was presumed to be the eve of an expected showdown between Holder and the GOP lawmakers over plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison and put detainees on trial in civilian courts.