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House Report Cites Five Former ATF Officials in Fast and Furious Operation

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House and Senate must improve the leadership of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to a draft report that was critical of the government's botched "Operation Fast and Furious" that resulted in hundreds of guns falling into criminal hands.

The report, prepared by California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, cited five one-time ATF officials in particular for instituting the gun-tracking operation and then failing to stop it after things went wrong.

Those named were former Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell, former Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, former Assistant Director for Field Operations Mark Chait, the former Deputy Director William Hoover, and former acting ATF director Kenneth Melson.

The ATF first allowed up to 2,000 firearms to cross the border into Mexico in order to find violent criminals involved in gun trafficking and drug cartels.  However, many of those weapons were misplaced and two turned up at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.

The Justice Department initially denied knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious and then admitted it was aware of the program.  Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before numerous congressional committees to testify about what he knew and is currently being held in contempt by the House for not turning over documents requested by Issa.

Two other reports from congressional Republicans are due that will allege further missteps by the Justice Department's criminal division and the office of the attorney general.  Holder and members of the Obama administration have called the probes a "witch-hunt."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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