Kenneth Melson, who has served as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since April 2009 has been replaced today and will become senior advisor on forensic science in the Justice Department’s office of Legal Policy.
BULLETIN: U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke suddenly resigned this morning, according to the Arizona Republic. Burke was U.S. Attorney during Operation Fast and Furious.
Former Arizona Sen. Dennis DeConcini came out swinging in defense of Burke, stating:
“If his resignation is tied to Fast and Furious, it’s ridiculous. It would be absolutely outrageous for ‘Justice Main’ to take it out on Dennis and make him the fall guy. It’s just typical Washington cronyism. It just shows you how incompetent government can be to save themselves. It appears they screwed up, based on congressional ‘hearings’.”
Northwest gun rights activists on Northwest Firearms, WaGuns and Gun Rights Media are watching this unfolding story, and they are skeptical about whether this will allow those in charge to escape responsibility for a gun running scandal that has been unfolding since January.
Replacing Melson is B. Todd Jones, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota. According to a Justice Department announcement, Jones will take the ATF helm tomorrow, and continue serving as U.S. Attorney. Jones has served in the U.S. Marines, where he was both a defense counsel and prosecutor in courts martial proceedings.
This new development is getting high-profile attention from the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CBS News, Fox News and Reuters.
The changes come after months of political heat for Melson, who led the agency when Operation Fast and Furious exploded as a scandal that is now under investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and by the office of Senator Charles Grassley, as well as the Justice Department’s Inspector General.
Congressman Darrell Issa, who has been investigating the botched Operation Fast and Furious, issued this statement:
“While the reckless disregard for safety that took place in Operation Fast and Furious certainly merits changes within the Department of Justice, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue its investigation to ensure that blame isn’t offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department. There are still many questions to be answered about what happened in Operation Fast and Furious and who else bears responsibility, but these changes are warranted and offer an opportunity for the Justice Department to explain the role other officials and offices played in the infamous efforts to allow weapons to flow to Mexican drug cartels. I also remain very concerned by Acting Director Melson’s statement that the Department of Justice is managing its response in a manner intended to protect its political appointees. Senator Grassley and I will continue to press the Department of Justice for answers in order to ensure that a reckless effort like Fast and Furious does not take place again.”—Congressman Darrell Issa
On Tuesday afternoon, Senator Grassley issued the following statement:
“Today’s announcement is an admission by the Obama administration that serious mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, and is a step in the right direction that they are continuing to limit any further damage that people involved in this disastrous strategy can do.
“There’s a lot of blame to go around. As our investigation moves forward, and we get to the bottom of this policy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more fall out beyond the resignations and new assignments announced today.
“The Justice Department and the ATF have yet to answer a majority of the questions and still must produce many of the documents Congressman Issa and I have asked for. We’re looking for a full accounting from the Justice Department as to who knew what and when, so we can be sure that this ill-advised strategy never happens again.”
Melson met privately with congressional investigators, accompanied by his personal attorney, in a July 4 meeting in Washington, D.C. to tell his version of events leading up to and following the Fast and Furious implosion that began with the slaying of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December of last year. This column has covered the unfolding events over the past several months, after the scandal was revealed by my colleague, National Gun Rights Examiner Dan, and independent blogger Mike Vanderboegh, Sipsey Street Irregulars.
Several weeks ago, rumors spread that Melson was being replaced, but that story evaporated after Melson’s meeting with congressional investigators was revealed. He has yet to testify publicly before the House committee, chaired by Rep. Issa.
The Justice Department has shuffled virtually all of the people directly involved with Operation Fast and Furious over the past few months, which many in the gun rights community see as an acknowledgement that something went very wrong. ATF whistle blowers have estimated that as many as 2,000 to 2,500 guns were allowed to get into criminal hands during the botched gun trafficking sting operation.
Previously, ATF Phoenix Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell was reassigned to headquarters. And two Assistant Special Agents in Charge under Fast and Furious, George Gillett and Jim Needles, were also moved to other positions.—CBS News
Fox News has confirmed an earlier report by CBS News that there has also been a shift at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix:
In Phoenix, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, who oversaw Fast and Furious on a day-to-day basis, was reassigned from the criminal to civil division. His boss, U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, was on the hot seat last week and spoke to congressional investigators. According to multiple sources, he got physically sick during questioning and could not finish his session.
Also in Phoenix, three out of the four whistleblowers involved in the case have been reassigned to new positions outside Arizona. Two are headed to Florida, one to South Carolina.
Issa earlier said he wants to hold at least two more hearings on Fast and Furious before the end of this year. The door is open for further hearings in 2012. With this shakeup, it is not clear whether Issa’s committee will hear testimony from Melson and others involved in the operation who have not previously appeared before the committee.
PLEASE FORWARD the link to this column and share with all of your chat lists and forums
PLEASE SUBSCRIBE by clicking on the link above
And Don’t forget to visit:
VISIT THESE GUN RIGHTS EXAMINERS ON-LINE:
Atlanta Ed Stone | Austin Howard Nemerov | Boston Ron Bokleman | Charlotte Paul Valone | Cheyenne Anthony Bouchard | Chicago Don Gwinn | Cleveland Daniel White | DC Mike Stollenwerk | Denver Dan Bidstrup | Des Moines Sean McClanahan |Detroit Rob Reed | Fort Smith Steve D. Jones | Knoxville Liston Matthews | Los Angeles John Longenecker | Minneapolis John Pierce | National Dan | Seattle Dave Workman | St. Louis Kurt Hofmann | Tucson Chris Woodard | Oakland Yih-Chau Chang
SECOND AMENDMENT FOUNDATION
‘Winning Firearms Freedom One Lawsuit at a Time’
CITIZENS COMMITTEE FOR THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS
America Fights Back: Armed Self-Defense in a Violent Age
These Dogs Don’t Hunt: The Democrats’ War on Guns
Assault on Weapons: The Campaign to Eliminate Your Guns
Washington State Gun Rights and Responsibilities