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Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley said they became aware of the program in 2010 when border agent Brian Terry was killed in a shoot-out with illegals brandishing assault rifles — even as Terry and his colleagues were armed with weapons that shot bean bags. Two of the guns found at the crime scene were traced back to a gun store monitored by the ATF in the Fast and Furious operation. Another one was found after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata was killed and fellow agent Victor Avila was wounded on a Mexican highway near San Luis Potosi on Feb. 15. Weapons have turned up at several other crime scenes on both sides of the border as well.
Many of the ATF agents involved in the operation warned of the potentially disastrous consequences involved in allowing guns to “walk” into Mexico. Last February, CBS News reported that “at least 11 ATF agents and senior managers voiced fierce opposition to the strategy. ‘It got ugly…’ said one. There was ‘screaming and yelling’ says another. A third warned: ‘this is crazy, somebody is gonna to get killed.’” Yet another agent asked a superior if he was “prepared to go to the funeral of a federal officer killed with one of these guns.”
A 51-page report released June 22nd revealed that such concerns were ignored. “I believe we are righteous in our plan to dismantle this entire [trafficking] organization and to rush in to arrest any one person without taking into account the entire scope of the conspiracy would be ill advised,” wrote Fast and Furious leader, ATF Supervisor David Voth, to fellow agents in an April 2010 email. Federal Agent John Dodson, who broke the story to CBS, confirmed the prevailing attitude when he and other agents expressed their own misgivings with the project. ”If you’re going to make an omelette, you’ve got to scramble some eggs,” was the response they got, he testified.
On June 29th, the president offered his own assessment of the scandal. ”My attorney general has made clear that he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico…I’m not going to comment on a–on a current investigation. I’ve made very clear my views that that would not be an appropriate step by the ATF, and we’ve got to find out how that happened.”
Yet if acting ATF director Kenneth Melson’s testimony is truthful, finding out what happened is exactly what the Justice Department is trying to prevent. How does Melson fit into the mix? Several news sources have cited that Melson has been pressured to resign. Yet Melson himself testified otherwise over the holiday weekend. Thus he remains acting Director of the ATF. Why is this important? Because he is no longer considered a “career official” and, according to Issa and Grassley’s letter to Eric Holder, “no longer enjoys the due process protections afforded to career officials.” This means that Melson doesn’t qualify for protections afforded by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.
Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley then expressed the gist of their concern. “[I]t would be inappropriate for the Justice Department to take action against him that could have the effect of intimidating others who might want to provide additional information to the Committees…we believe it would be inappropriate to make Mr. Melson the fall guy in an attempt to prevent further congressional oversight.”
So far, the DOJ’s response has been provided by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, who wrote a letter responding to Grassley and Issa in which he claimed the department “in no way sought to limit appropriate access to information concerning Operation Fast and Furious,” noting they had made over 2,000 document available to the investigating committee.
Whose telling the truth? This is not the first time the Department of Justice has been accused of stonewalling an investigation. In 2009, sworn testimony by J. Christian Adams indicated that Attorney General Eric holder “tampered” with ongoing investigations of a voter intimidation case involving Black Panthers in Philadelphia during the 2008 election. In the current case, Darrel Issa is convinced that Eric Holder, who has already answered questions regarding Fast and Furious here, knew about the scandal “earlier than he testified.” That’s an explosive charge.
It’s an equally explosive scandal. One that won’t be going away any time soon.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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