Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Issa: ATF Chief Should Go But Higher Ups Also Culpable

ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson

(CNSNews.com) – Amid reports that Kenneth Melson will be forced to resign as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a Republican congressman says “he should” lose his job.

Melson “was part of the bad judgment” ATF exhibited in allowing guns to be sold in the U.S. to people acting on behalf of Mexican criminals, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told Fox & Friends Tuesday morning.

But the bad judgment attached to ATF’s “Operation Fast and Furious” goes higher than Melson, Issa said:

Attorney General Eric Holder “should have known – I believe it was his obligation to know” what was going on at ATF, Issa said. Holder wasn’t doing his job properly if he didn’t know, the congressman added.

The ATF intended to track the guns sold to straw purchasers in the U.S. to find out where in Mexico they were going, but the ATF lost track of the weapons.

The guns that were sold in the U.S. didn’t necessarily go to Mexico, Issa said. Two ended up in Arizona, at the place where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in December.

The botched mission “did sort of develop at ATF,” Issa said on Tuesday, but higher-ups in the U.S. Justice Department had to know about it – all the way up to Lanny Breuer at least, he said. Breuer is the assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Issa also noted that a federal judge had to sign off on wiretaps used as part of the ATF operation.

Issa indicated that even if Melson does resign, people at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice Department must be held accountable.

Issa chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held hearings on Operation Fast and Furious last week. He recently told CNSNews.com that he believes the Justice Department is covering up information relevant to the congressional investigation.


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