Theodore's World: Stunning Developments With Obama and Holder's "Fast and Furious"

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July 07, 2011

Stunning Developments With Obama and Holder's "Fast and Furious"

A stunning development in Congress’s investigation of the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” gun-running program: it was revealed that on July 4, Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Obama administration’s intended fall guy in the scandal, broke ranks with his superiors. Without their knowledge, he gave an interview to Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, accompanied only by his personal attorney. While a transcript of that interview is not yet public, it is clear that he blew the whistle on senior officials in the Justice Department.



Issa and Senator Charles Grassley released a letter that they sent yesterday to Attorney General Eric Holder. It is explosive, to say the least. You should read it in its entirety.

Here is the text of the letter:

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General u.s. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

Yesterday, Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson participated in a transcribed interview regarding Operation Fast and Furious and related matters with both Republican and Democratic staff. He appeared with his personal counsel, Richard CullenofMcGuireWoodsLLP. His interview had originally been scheduled through the Justice Department to occur on July 13 in the presence of DOJ and ATF counsel. As you know, however, under our agreement Department witnesses who choose to attend a voluntary interview with their own lawyer are free to exercise that right rather than participate with counsel representing the Department’s interests.

After being made aware of that provision of our agreement, Acting Director Melson chose to exercise that right and appeared with his own lawyer. We are disappointed that no one had previously informed him of that provision of the agreement. Instead, Justice Department officials sought to limit and control his communications with Congress. This is yet another example of why direct communications with Congress are so important and are protected by law.

Specifically, no officer or employee may attempt to prohibit or prevent “any other officer or employee of the Federal Government from having direct oral or written communication or contact with any Member, committee, or subcommittee of the Congress” about a matter related to his employment or the agency “in any way, irrespective of whether such communication or contact is at the initiative” of the employee or Congress (emphasis added). Moreover, the prohibition also applies to any officer or employee who “removes, suspends from duty without pay ... any other officer or employee of the Federal Government ... by reason of any communication or contact of such other officer or employee with any Member, committee, or subcommittee of the Congress.” Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, P.L.111-117, 123 Stat. 3034, § 714 (2010), as continued by §1104 ofP.L. 112-10- which extends the funding levels, as well as “the authority and conditions provided in such Acts,” through September 30, 2011.

Acting Director Melson’s cooperation was extremely helpful to our investigation. He was candid in admitting mistakes that his agency made and described various ways he says that he tried to remedy the problems. According to Mr. Melson, it was not until after the public controversy that he personally reviewed hundreds of documents relating to the case,including wiretap applications and Reports of Investigation (ROIs). By his account, he was sick to his stomach when he obtained those documents and learned the fullstory. Mr.Melson said that he told the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) at the end of March that the Department needed to reexamine how it was responding to the requests for information from Congress

According to Mr. Melson, he and ATF’s senior leadership team moved to reassign every manager involved in Fast and Furious, from the Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations down to the Group Supervisor, after learning the facts in those documents. Mr. Melson also said he was not allowed to communicate to Congress the reasons for the reassignments. He claimed that ATF’s senior leadership would have preferred to be more cooperative with our inquiry much earlier in the process. However, he said that Justice Department officials directed them not to respond and took full control of replying to briefing and document requests from Congress. The result is that Congress only got the parts of the story that the Department wanted us to hear. Ifhis account is accurate, then ATF leadership appears to have been effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand. That approach distorted the truth and obstructed our investigation. The Department’s inability or unwillingness to be more forthcoming served to conceal critical information that we are now learning about the involvement of other agencies, including the DEA and the FBI.

The Role of DEA, FBI, and Other Agencies

When confronted with information about serious issues involving lack of information sharing by other agencies, which Committee staff had originally learned from other witnesses, Mr. Melson’s responses tended to corroborate what others had said. Specifically, we have very real indications from several sources that some of the gun trafficking “higher-ups” that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants. The Acting Director said that ATF was kept in the dark about certain activities of other agencies, including DEA andFBI. Mr.MelsonsaidthathelearnedfromATFagentsinthefieldthatinformation obtained by these agencies could have had a material impact on the Fast and Furious investigation as far back as late 2009 or early 2010. After learning about the possible role of DEA and FBI, he testified that he reported this information in April 2011 to the Acting Inspector General and directly to then-Acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole on June 16, 2011.

The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities. While this is preliminary information, we must find out if there is any truth to it. According to Acting Director Melson, he became aware of this startling possibility only after the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the indictments of the straw purchasers, which we now know were substantially delayed by the u.s. Attorney’s Office and Main Justice. Mr. Melson provided documents months ago supporting his concerns to the official in the ODAG responsible for document production to the Committees, but those documents have not been provided to us.

It is one thing to argue that the ends justify the means in an attempt to defend a policy that puts building a big case ahead of stopping known criminals from getting guns. Yet it is a much more serious matter to conceal from Congress the possible involvement of other agencies in identifying and maybe even working with the same criminals that Operation Fast and Furious was trying to identify. If this information is accurate, then the whole misguided operation might have been cut short if not for catastrophic failures to share key information. If agencies within the same Department, co-located at the same facilities, had simply communicated with one another, then ATF might have known that gun trafficking “higher-ups” had been already identified. This raises new and serious questions about the role of DEA, FBI, the United States Attorney’s Office in Arizona, and Main Justice in coordinating this effort. Nearly a decade after the September 11th attacks, the stovepipes of information within our government may still be causing tragic mistakes long after they should have been broken down.

Efforts to Oust Melson

In the last few weeks, unnamed administration officials have indicated to the press that Acting Director Melson would be forced to resign. According to Mr.Melson, those initial reports were untrue. Regardless of what we might have thought before about how he should handle a request to resign, we now know he has not been asked to resign. We also now have the benefit of hearing his side of the story and will have a chance to examine what he said and compare it to the other evidence we are gathering. However, that will take some time. Mr. Melson served as the First Assistant to the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District ofVirginia for 21 years, from 1986 to 2007. That is a career position. After the controversy over the firing of the U.S. Attorneys, he took over the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA). He indicated that he was asked to convert to a non-career Senior Executive Service (SES), a politically appointed position, in order to speed the hiringprocess,andheagreed. However,his former position at EOUSA is currently filled by a career SES employee, Marshall Jarrett. As you know, for civil servants, the distinction between career and non-career status is significant.

In 2009, he said he was asked to take over as Acting Director of the ATF. Acting Director of the ATF is by its nature a temporary job. According to Mr. Melson, he was willing to serve the Department with the understanding that after a short tenure as Acting Director, he would return to a position as a career senior executive elsewhere within the Department. However, two days after he told Acting Deputy Attorney General Cole about serious issues involving lack of information sharing, the Wall Street Journal reported that unnamed sources said that Melson was about to be ousted.

The revelations about Operation Fast and Furious have focused intense scrutiny on the ATF. It has no doubt taken a toll on the agency and the good people who work there. Much of that damage has occurred because the Department prevented ATF from being more forthcoming and responsive to questions from Congress. This is the context in which Mr. Melson decided to submit to an on-the-record interview with private counsel, pursuant to our agreement with the Department.

Technically, Mr. Melson no longer enjoys the due process protections afforded to career officials. Given his testimony, unless a permanent director is confirmed, it would be inappropriate for the Justice Department to take action against him that could have the effect of intimidating others who might want to provide additional information to the Committees.

We hope that the Department will take a much more candid and forthcoming approach in addressing these very serious matters with the Committees. Ifother important fact witnesses like Mr. Melson have a desire to communicate directly with the Committees they should be informed that they are free to do so. They should also be notified that if they are represented by personal counsel, they may appear with personal counsel rather than with Department lawyers. Any decision about Mr. Melson’s future with the Department would need to be justified solely on the basis of the facts and the needs of the agency, rather than on his decision to speak to us. We encourage you to communicate to us any additional significant information about any such decision so that we can work together to ensure that it would not impede our investigation. For now, the Office of Inspector General is still conducting its review, and we are still conducting ours. Knowing what we know so far, we believe it would be inappropriate to make Mr. Melson the fall guy in an attempt to prevent further congressional oversight.


Darrell Issa, Chairman
Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives

Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate


Project Gunrunner, often referred to with the sarcastic term "Gunwalker" is an ATF program that started in the mid 2000's. FFL's (Federal Firearms Licensees) in the border areas were asked to report suspicious transactions and those weapons would be entered into an ATF tracking database. When possible the suspected straw purchaser was tracked down and arrested.

Operation Fast and Furious is an offshoot of the Gunrunner program based in Phoenix. It was essentially an expansion of the Gunrunner MO with the stated purpose of tracking weapons to drug cartels. The difference with F&F is that ATF didn't arrest anyone. The weapons got sold, were entered in the database and accounted for only when they showed up at a crime scene....such as the shooting of Brian Terry.

report from the LA Times:

More federal agencies implicated in gun-trafficking controversy

The head of the ATF says the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration kept him in the dark about their role in the operation that allowed guns to escape untracked into the hands of Mexican criminals.

“On Wednesday, Mexican federal police released a videotaped interrogation with recently captured Jesus Rejon Aguilar, an alleged founder of the Zetas gang there who is wanted in the slaying of a U.S. immigration agent in Mexico. He brazenly told them that “all the weapons are bought in the United States” and that “even the American government itself was selling the weapons.”

He added, “Whatever you want, you can get.”

Issa and Grassley said that over the holiday weekend Melson "was candid in admitting mistakes that his agency made."

They said he told them he personally reviewed hundreds of documents about Fast and Furious and became "sick to his stomach when he obtained those documents and learned the full story."

Melson said ATF agents had witnessed the transfer of weapons from straw purchasers to others "without following the guns any further."


Wild Thing's comment.........

Few people have been into this Fast and Furious thing which has surprised me, because it is huge and gets bigger all the time. This will go to the Office of the President and to the president himself if it is permitted to proceed unhindered.

The letter from Issa and Grassley about Melson’s testimony is astounding. It looks pretty likely that this could at least take Holder down. I'm sure he(Holder) will do everything possible to protect Obama from being implicated; but who knows.

My gut says the intent of this program was to undermine gun rights, blaming murders on such weapons that made their way across the US border.

My guess is Holder's first phone call will be to call his old buddy Bill Clinton.
Holder knows Obama will at some point HAVE to toss him under the yellow bus. And Bill is an old hand manipulating a scandal. I wonder how the Clinton's will work this scandal into more power over Obama.

This is international. NOTHING this big happens without full knowledge of, and permission from, the whitehouse. NOTHING. obama signed off on this. There is no way the DOJ or ATF could have done this on their own, let alome apprropriate money from other government agencies.

Posted by Wild Thing at July 7, 2011 05:55 AM


Holder (stedman) deserves a 30 minute trial before he is dragged out of the courtroom kicking and screaming like a 40 year old bull dyke straight to the scaffold where his sentence will be carried out by representatives of "the people."

Posted by: Eddie (Enemy of the State) at July 7, 2011 08:16 AM

I agree with you 100% in that this things whole purpose is to undermine gun rights of American Citizens.

To purchase an AK-47 from a gun store in America is going to cost you at least $350 to $400 per gun. These cartels with their almost unlimited resources and money can purchase a fully automatic AK-47 from an international arms dealer for probably under $150 each. They can have them shipped in by the boatload from countries like China. Why would they spend about $400 for a semi-automatic AK-47 when they can get a fully automatic AK for less than half the price?

What the Administration wants to do is flood the Mexican cartels with guns purchased in the US; guns with traceable serial numbers. Once these guns are captured in Mexico, they're report how guns purchased in the US are being used by the drug cartels. Fortunately for the American People, this thing blew up in the Administrations faces. When the border guard, armed with a bean bag gun, was killed by a drug runner armed with a gun obtained though Fast and Furious, this incident would have been the one the Administration and MSM would use to call for stricter gun control. The President would have attended his funeral, using the occasion to demand tighter gun control laws and a ban on "assault weapons" as an outraged American Public looked on. Now it seems, someone in government bears responsibility for his mans death.

Posted by: BobF at July 7, 2011 09:56 AM

Impeach Obama and put Holder In Folsom Prison and see how long he makes it in the Yard.

Posted by: Gator at July 7, 2011 03:51 PM

Did you hear that not only did they expedite the purchases from the stores but the Acting Director of the BATF has testified that they helped finance the purchases of the guns by the drug gangs. This is so much bigger than Watergate that it is unbelievable.
That was about tracking down $22 million that the Cubans were putting into American politics in 1972, The Cubans were not working through the Democrat Party...that year.

Posted by: Avitar at July 7, 2011 03:57 PM

Ban guns because the BATF can't be responsible with them! (Watch the left/libtards try to spin it that way with a straight face.)

Posted by: Anonymous at July 7, 2011 06:39 PM I heard a radio news report stating that a parallel operation linking Tampa, Fl and Hounduras has seen the light of day. This could end up to be a bigger scandal than Watergate-if these guys were Republicans.....

Posted by: Willy at July 7, 2011 07:35 PM

Wow thank you everyone for the awesome input.

If there is justice left at all those like Holder and oh how I wish Obama too would rule the day for all the things they have been doing.

Posted by: Wild Thing at July 8, 2011 03:36 AM