By Sandy Fitzgerald
A former U.S. attorney in Phoenix leaked information to Fox News to discredit the main whistleblower in the failed “Fast and Furious” gun trafficking operation, Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said Monday.
Horowitz said the attorney, Dennis Burke, violated Justice Department policy when he gave a Fox News producer a memo concerning John Dodson, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent who testified before Congress, The Washington Post reports.
Burke was forced to resign from his U.S. attorney post on Aug. 30, 2011, and later admitted to leaking the memo. Horowitz has also asked the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility to determine if Burke violated the rules of professional conduct for state law boards.
His attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, said his client regrets his action, but claimed Burke did not intend to retaliate against Dodson.
Horowitz, though, in a 21- page report, found Burke’s actions were “particularly egregious” because of his efforts to undermine Dodson’s credibility about the failures of the gun operation.
In the memo Burke gave to Fox, a 2010 operation was detailed in which Dodson proposed acting undercover and delivering firearms to a suspected trafficker, but not to arrest anyone, in a plan similar to the Fast and Furious operation.
Fast and Furious began in Phoenix in 2009, with ATF agents attempting to track more than 2,000 weapons sold to drug traffickers in an effort to link the guns to a Mexican drug cartel. However, two of the guns were later found at the scene of a shootout in which a U.S. border agent was killed.
The operation led to a lengthy congressional investigation, during which Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was held in contempt for not disclosing documents about the Justice Department’s response.
Horowitz said Burke was already under investigation even before he gave Fox News the memo in June 2011, for leaking information to The New York Times. Just days before, he told Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole about his contacts with the Times, and was warned not to release other unauthorized information to the news media, Horowitz said in his report.
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