Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson had a little chinwag with Rep. Darrell Issa and Senator Charles Grassley. Appearing with private counsel on Independence Day, Melson dropped the dime on the FBI and DEA, implicating the agencies in the scandal currently rocking the ATF. But only in the sense that they knew all about the “big fish” in the U.S. to Mexico gun smuggling biz and kept Melson’s ATF anti-gun running gun runners in the dark. The Congressional Investigation into Gunwalker released the following statement on Melson’s testimony . . .
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. Mr. Melson said that he learned from ATF agents in the field that information 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.
Stop! This is a classic distraction technique. Melson’s testimony (as gleaned from this letter) implies that the ATF’s Gunwalker and Operation Fast and Furious programs would have been a success if the FBI and DEA had worked with the ATF. Crap.
Once again, I feel compelled to point out that there was no Iron River. No significant flow of weapons from U.S. gun dealers to Mexican drug cartels. U.S. government sanctioned arms sales “seeping” to cartels is, was and will be the major source of all U.S. manufactured weaponry that ends up in the hands of the Mexican drug cartels.
The “higher” ups working for the cartels in the employ of the FBI (FBI?) and DEA were either A) small fish or B) doing something to get their guns that has nothing whatsoever to do with U.S. gun dealers and the ATF. If you want to know about the cartels’ weapons—rather than the ATF’s f’up—the Department of Defense, Department of State and CIA are the people to call.
O.K., so the bigger news: Melson said the Justice Department has and is obstructing the independent House Oversight Committee Investigation.
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. If his 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 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.
Duh on the delays. But did I just read that Melson admitted authorizing Gunwalker (hard to deny as an ATF agent testified that Melson watched one such purchase on the Internet) but didn’t know who was paying for the weapons? Where did he think the money was coming from?
As I said many times before, Congress needs to call up the criminals involved with the ATF non-sting at the sharp end and find out EXACTLY how these deals went down. Follow the money. Look for that financial “seepage” I keep banging-on about.
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.
And if the Congressional investigation buys Melson’s misegos and keeps talking like this the whole Gunwalker scandal could fizzle out. The ATF’s gun running scheme didn’t need to be “cut short.” It needed to be strangled at birth.
Never mind “failure to share information.” Any federal agency or employee thereof (I’m looking at you Hillary and Barack) that knew about Gunwalker and didn’t say “whoa Nellie” is in the frame. And while we’re at it . . .
WTF business does the ATF have with international gun smuggling? When U.S. gun dealers called the ATF and said “Hey guys, I think these people are buying my guns to smuggle into Mexico,” the ATF should have arrested the so-called straw purchasers ASAP, squeezed them and . . . that’s it. Finito.
Institutional ambition and arrogance led the ATF to abrogate their responsibility to do that and nothing else. You know; lest ATF-enabled guns walk across the border to be used in the commission of a crime. Like, say, the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Or dozens of Mexican nationals.
Are we surprised that the ATF, DEA, ICE, DHS, CIA, FBI, DOJ, CPB and State Department didn’t know what was going on with all this? Or did and didn’t coordinate? Or did coordinate but did it badly?
It’s worth interjecting a simple fact into this cluster-you-know-what: the United States of America has too many cops. Too many law enforcement agencies. When Tea Partiers assert that Uncle Sam is too big, it’s not just fiscal ruin that they fear. It’s exactly this kind of government inefficiency and over-reach.
Gunwalker is proof positive that we have too much government. The next President of the United States should disband the ATF, transfer their job to the IRS and FBI, save $1.5 per year and save us from these lying, arrogant, anti-Second Amendment jackbooted thugs.
We hope that the Department will take a much more candid and forthcoming approach in addressing these very serious matters with the Committees. If other 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.
The rats are turning on each other. But the truth remains hidden. For now.