On July 5, 2011, the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on the Judiciary sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, a day after holding a meeting with acting Director of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Kenneth Melson. During the interview, which he held voluntarily, Melson agreed that during the Operation “Fast and Furious” serious mistakes were made.
“Fast and Furious” was an ATF-led investigation that attempted to track the sale of automatic rifles and other weapons from the point of purchase to the point of lethal use in Mexico. The operation has been criticized for allowing hundreds of weapons to “walk,” i.e., cross the border into Mexico, where they were used for criminal acts by the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the hemisphere, the Sinaloa Cartel, including the death of a U.S. border patrol agent in a shootout along the Mexico-U.S. border.
An excerpt of the letter:
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 be en 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. Mr. Melson provided documents months ago supporting his concerns to the official in the ODAG responsible for document production to the Committees, but those documents have not been provided to us.
To read the full document in pdf click here.
For further information on “Fast and Furious” read InSight Crime’s investigation, GunRunner’s special.