Fast and Furious Fallout: Former ATF Deputy Director Leaves Agency

Aug 2, 2012 7:32pm

The former deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has left the agency in the wake of the fallout from the Fast and Furious gun walking scandal. William Hoover was no longer employed at the agency as of Aug, 1, 2012, according to an ATF spokesman. Officials declined to comment further, citing the Privacy Act.

Hoover had served as the deputy director of the bureau since February 2007 and was in that position during the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. Prior to being the No. 2 at the ATF, Hoover had served as the assistant director for field operations. He joined the ATF in 1987 after having worked in Virginia at several law enforcement agencies. He had also served as special agent in charge of Boston and Washington field offices before going to ATF headquarters.

Under Fast and Furious, ATF agents recorded and tracked straw purchases of weapons, which eventually “walked” across the U.S. border into Mexico. ATF agents were tracking the purchases in a failed effort to locate major weapons traffickers, rather than catching low-level buyers. The ATF operation took a tragic toll when two guns linked to the operation were found near slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry on Dec. 14, 2010.

Hoover had been briefed on Fast and Furious by ATF agent William Newell, the special agent in charge overseeing the case. In March 2010 Hoover became concerned about the number of guns involved in the case and ordered ATF agents in Phoenix to wrap the case up in 90 days.

Hoover was among five ATF officials recently named in a Congressional report responsible for the botched gun-running operation. The report, released earlier this week, prepared by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee noted of Hoover and ATF assistant director Mark Chait, “Assistant Director Mark Chait and his superior, Deputy Director Hoover, had several opportunities to put an end to the operation but failed to do so. Hoover knew that Newell had employed risky tactics in the past as SAC yet failed to monitor him closely. Either Hoover did not ask the right questions or simply turned a blind eye to the unavoidable reality that reckless gunwalking tactics were being used again in Fast and Furious.”

Although Hoover had ordered his agents to wrap up the investigation within 90 days in March 2010, indictments were not returned by federal grand juries until January 2011.

Hoover was reassigned to a subordinate position last October when the newly appointed acting director of the ATF, Todd Jones, shook-up senior staff positions. Last August, Ken Melson, the acting director at ATF overseeing Fast and Furious, moved back to Justice Department headquarters to work as a senior adviser to the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy focusing on forensic science policy.

The recently released report by Issa’s office noted that Melson failed to supervise his staff: “Acting Director Kenneth Melson, as head of ATF, still bears a significant measure of responsibility for failing to ensure that ATF headquarters personnel adequately supervised the Phoenix Field Division.”

In August 2011,  Dennis Burke, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona where operation Fast and Furious was overseen, resigned from the Justice Department. The assistant U.S. attorney who helped run the program, Emory Hurley, has also been reassigned from working on criminal cases and is currently assigned to the civil division at the Arizona U.S. attorney’s office. William Newell was reassigned to ATF Headquarters from overseeing the Phoenix field office.

The Justice Department’s Inspector General report into Fast and Furious is expected to be released in the next several weeks.

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