It seems well overdue but the head of the ATF and a pair of district attorneys have gotten the boot (call it resignations or a force out) after a Congressional investigation and appearances in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform finally forced the issue. It’s tough to avoid the story, again, on how this all began in 2009.
The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had big plans to increase the effectiveness of its already implemented operation, ‘Project Gunrunner’. The first test of Project Gunrunner began back in 2005 as a way to restrict the influx of firearms crossing the border into Mexico and into the hands of drug cartels. In unison with eTrace, a software program used to digitally track firearms used in connection with crimes, Project Gunrunner was advertised to be fundamentally sound in practice. Now enter operation ‘Fast and Furious’.
Many of you reading already know full details of what took place throughout the sting operations between 2009 and 2010, or have at the very least a good idea of what transpired. In short, only a fraction of the 2,000 plus firearms ranging from 9mm pistols and FN Five-sevens to AK-47s and AR-15 rifles were ever traced back from these straw man purchases. More importantly and devastating to the agency were the crimes committed using these ‘traced’ firearms. The murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and the kidnapping of attorney Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez were just two major debacles related to the flawed and dangerous Fast and Furious operation.
So now comes the aftermath… After whistleblowing from its own federal agents, the ATF has undergone a major shakeup. Reported by several news outlets, including ABCNews.com on August 30th, Ken Melson, acting ATF chief, stepped down from his post. And it didn’t stop there. Two more officials deeply involved in the botched operation were also sent packing including Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, and Emory Hurley, assistant U.S. attorney.
As of now no criminal charges are expected to follow, and both Melson and Hurley have already been assigned different governmental jobs. What makes this such a damaging blow to the ATF and more importantly to Melson’s credibility are the emails that were recovered. In these messages Melson was informed of the problems that Fast and Furious presented to agents in and out of the ATF. Melson himself took to damage control, hiring a private lawyer to save face in the department. But it was all too late as the call for his resignation was inevitable.
Melson will now take the position as senior advisor to the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy. His replacement has already been made public as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, B. Todd Jones will move his furniture into the now empty office.
And don’t think that we’ve heard the last of this story. The investigation into Fast and Furious will continue in the coming months. The mission is to uncover all personal who were possibly involved in the unraveling of this highly publicized operation. As Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), top Democrat on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee said, “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.”