“Fast and Furious” Blows Sky-High

July 6, 2011
By CMAC

This morning, there was 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.

Posted on July 6, 2011 by John Hinderaker in Obama Administration Scandals

This morning, 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 are some excerpts:

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 Cullen of McGuire Woods LLP. 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.

DOJ’s effort to cover up the Fast and Furious scandal is one of the letter’s themes.

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 full story.

More on the DOJ’s attempt to hide the scandal from Congress:

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.

Issa’s committee has learned that other federal agencies, including the FBI and DEA, were involved in Fast and Furious, and that there was a failure to share information that was known to those 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 and FBI.

The evidence gathered by Issa’s oversight committee suggests that the Obama administration may actually have financed the purchases of firearms by known criminals, which then wound up in the hands of Mexican gangs and were involved in murders, including the murder of an American border patrol agent:

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.

Issa and Grassley link the Obama administration’s effort to slide Melson out of his position, making him the fall guy for the Fast and Furious operation, with Melson’s complaints to Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the number two official in the Department of Justice, about DOJ’s failure to respond adequately to Congress’s requests for information about Fast and Furious:

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 full transcript of Melson’s testimony, when released, will be a fascinating document. In the meantime, it appears clear that the Fast and Furious scandal reaches to the very top of Barack Obama’s Department of Justice.

Via InstaPundit.

 

POWERLINE

 

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.

  • 16
Kenneth MelsonKenneth E. Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in 2009. (Pat Sullivan / Associated Press / April 28, 2009)
By Richard A. Serrano Washington BureauJuly 6, 2011, 3:27 p.m. 

Reporting from Washington—

The embattled head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has told congressional investigators that the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration kept his agency “in the dark” about their dealings with Mexican drug cartel figures linked to a controversial gun-trafficking investigation.

Kenneth Melson, the ATF’s acting director, has been under pressure to resign over the agency’s handling of the gun-trafficking operation, known as Fast and Furious. But in two days of meetings with investigators, Melson disclosed that other law enforcement agencies had a connection to the operation. His statements sharply ratcheted up the affair, and strongly suggested that House and Senate investigations, as well as an internal review by the Justice Department, will widen.

 

“Our investigation has clearly expanded,” one source close to the investigation said Wednesday. “We know now it was not something limited to just a small group of ATF agents in Arizona.”

Under Fast and Furious, the ATF allowed straw purchases of weapons — in which a person buys guns on behalf of someone else who cannot legally buy them — ostensibly to trace the guns back to Mexican drug cartels. The agency lost track of the guns, and many were found at the scene of crimes in Mexico, including two that were recovered at the site of a U.S. Border Patrol agent’s killing.

According to Melson, some of the Mexican drug cartel leaders being targeted were paid informants working for the FBI and DEA. Those agencies never shared that crucial information with the ATF, he said, telling investigators that if ATF agents had known of the relationships, the agency might have ended the investigation much earlier.

Melson was to have met with investigators on July 13 accompanied by ATF and Justice Department attorneys. Instead, he met with them Sunday and over the Fourth of July holiday and brought his personal lawyer along.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), told Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. in a letter Tuesday that “this whole misguided operation might have been cut short if not for catastrophic failures to share key information.”

Ronald Welch, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, responded Wednesday to the Issa-Grassley letter by saying Justice Department officials were still discussing how to provide any “sensitive law enforcement information” regarding the FBI and the DEA to congressional investigators. Without specifically acknowledging that cartel leaders were paid informants, he said their main focus is “how best to protect ongoing investigations.”

“Like you,” he told them, “the department is deeply interested in understanding the facts surrounding Operation Fast and Furious.”

Mexican authorities have long complained that most of the guns that fuel the drug wars there are purchased in the U.S.

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,” contradicting statements by the Justice Department that they did follow through.

Sources both on Capitol Hill and at the ATF said Melson did not volunteer the information about the FBI and DEA informants. Rather, they said, he “corroborated” it when congressional investigators told him other sources have said the FBI and DEA had a role in why Fast and Furious continued for months.

Issa and Grassley were clearly upset over the revelation.

“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,” they said in their letter to Holder.

“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.” Terry was killed when a gun battle erupted in December along a smuggling route in Arizona near the border with Mexico.

Melson’s attorney, Richard Cullen, a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general in Virginia, declined in an interview Wednesday to elaborate except to say that the letter accurately reflects Melson’s comments to the investigators.

Cullen said Melson volunteered to speak with the committee because “he was anxious to get the facts out about the program.” He added that no one “in the leadership” at the Justice Department has told him to resign.

“He just wants the facts to be known by people in authority,” Cullen said. “He’s eager to be as cooperative in any official inquiry as he possibly can.”

Sources said the congressional investigators “confronted” Melson with evidence that the FBI and DEA were not cooperating with the ATF, and it was at that point that “Mr. Melson’s responses tended to corroborate what others had said.”

They said investigators have “very real indications from several sources” that some of the cartel leaders the ATF was trying to identify through Fast and Furious were “already known” to the other agencies and apparently had “been paid as informants.”

Finally, Melson said, ATF agents along the U.S.-Mexico border realized that the FBI and DEA were running separate operations and that it “could have a material impact on Fast and Furious.” Melson said he notified his superiors of this problem in April.

The congressional leaders also noted the pressure Melson has felt to resign, and they warned Holder not to make Melson the sole “fall guy” in Fast and Furious.

richard.serrano@latimes.com

 

 

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Front row from left, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmon and Kyrgyzstan’s President Roza Otunbayeva, and back row from left, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other guests pose for a photo after a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, Wednesday, June 15. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a regional security group dominated by China and Russia.
AP/RIA Novosti
 


Although a major force for integration in central Asia, SCO still has a lot of potential for expansion in the entire Eurasian area. Almost half of that landmass has not yet been drawn into the organization’s influence. As a result overtures have been made to various countries to try and gain footholds there. These include Ukraine, which president Hu Jintao visited before the Astana summit, Belarus and Sri Lanka, both of which have been admitted as dialogue partners.More importantly, perhaps, is that India and Pakistan are close to finalizing membership, with negotiations having been held to set down the terms and conditions of participation. Much of their motivation and indeed much of the thinking behind the expansion of SCO has been the desire for greater regional security. SCO has, it appears, adopted a similar strategy to the USA by trying to strengthen relations between Central and South Asia, weakening Russian and Chinese links at the same time, but has added its own touch by extending out towards the Indian Ocean.

 

Moreover, as military cooperation is deepened among SCO members – by means of security drills, enhanced interoperability and cooperation between law-enforcement agencies — the inclusion of the huge populations of India and Pakistan will also serve to weaken NATO’s role in the region.

The Astana Summit has seen a stronger assertion of regional independence and confidence in solving its own problems. There has been a strong sense that countries within the SCO area are capable of managing their own development towards greater democracy. Furthermore, there is agreement that member states should develop organically based on their history and cultural traditions rather than having an alien form of political establishment forced on them. Despite greater military cooperation and an endorsement of Russia’s missile defense strategy, dialogue is seen as the ideal way of resolving differences.

 

In this new thinking the international community would be confined to a more mediatory role, helping to reconcile conflicting parties but not actively interfering in other country’s sovereign affairs. Of primary importance would be the international community’s respect for international law and the individual integrity of each state.The first major example of how this new strategy might challenge conventional western wisdom is in the case of Afghanistan. Concerned by the American military presence there and its recent efforts to establish a strategic partnership agreement with the Afghan government led by president Hamid Karzai, the senior members of SCO — Russia, China, and Central Asia — have made it clear they do not foresee a permanent U.S. or even NATO presence being retained there. This was reinforced at the Astana conference, which called for a neutral Afghanistan. Significantly Karzai attended this conference. Thus step by step SCO is doing its best to maneuver itself into a position from which it can help determine what should happen in Afghanistan once U.S. troops have been withdrawn.

Dr. Fariborz Saremi is a commentator on TV and radio (German ARD/NDR TV,SAT 1,N24, Voice of America and Radio Israel) on Middle East issues and a contributer to FreePressers.com, WorldTribune.com and Defense&Foreign Affairs.

 

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    This morning, there was 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…

 


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