Legal Ethics

More Fast and Furious fallout: Former US attorney is reprimanded for leaking documents


Former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke of Arizona has been reprimanded for leaking two classified documents about Operation Fast and Furious, the flawed gun-running sting that allowed illegal firearms to be smuggled across the border.

Burke consented to the reprimand, according to the order (PDF) issued last Thursday. He told the Arizona Republic that the reprimand was a “fair resolution” of the case. “As U.S. attorney, my ultimate client is the United States. At the end of the day, I did not follow the process,” he said. Main Justice and the Associated Press also have stories.

Congress began to investigate the sting operation known as Fast and Furious after two guns sold to smugglers were found near a gun battle in which a U.S. Border Patrol Agent was murdered.

The agreement for discipline says Burke authorized release of the documents in 2011 because he “believed that his office and employees were not being fairly protected” by the U.S. Justice Department and the public was not receiving complete information about Fast and Furious.

When first questioned by Deputy Attorney General James Cole about release of the first document, Burke did not say that his office released the document, the discipline agreement says. He later took responsibility for the release and self-reported the issue to the bar. A few days after Cole admonished Burke for releasing the first document, Burke provided a second document to a reporter.

Burke “contends that these events occurred in a political context in which allegations were being published and made in congressional hearings that the [U.S. Attorney’s Office] had failed to take actions that would have prevented the death of a federal agent,” the agreement says.

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