There are now enough Operation Fast and Furious officials playing hide-and-seek in the Obama administration to fill a New York City-style “rubber room.”
Yesterday, the Justice Department announced it was shuffling Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, out of his job. The disclosure comes amid continued investigations into the administration’s fatally botched “gun sting” racket at the border and spreading outrage over legal obstructionism and whistleblower retaliation by Justice brass. The department’s inspector general is also conducting a probe.
Internal documents earlier showed that Melson was intimately involved in overseeing the program and screened undercover videos of thousands of straw purchases of AK-47s and other high-powered rifles — many of which ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel thugs, including those who murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December. Fast and Furious weapons have been tied to at least a dozen violent crimes in America and untold bloody havoc in Mexico.
In secret July 4 testimony, Melson revealed he was “sick to his stomach” when he discovered the extent of the operation’s deadly lapses. Join the club, pal.
Melson told congressional investigators that he and ATF’s senior leadership “moved to reassign every manager involved in Fast and Furious, from the deputy assistant director for field operations down to the group supervisor” after ATF whistleblowers went to the press and Capitol. But according to Melson, he and company were ordered by Justice Department higher-ups to remain silent about the reasons for the reassignments.
In other words: The ATF managers in the know were “effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand,” as GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, concluded in July.
Melson has been kicked back to DOJ’s main office in a flabbergasting new slot as “senior adviser on forensic science in the department’s Office of Legal Policy.” He may have been “sick to his stomach,” but the federal careerist apparently has no intention of quitting an administration with blood on its hands. And now he’ll be advising others on how to track and handle evidence. Nice make-work if you can get it.
Others on the Fast and Furious dance card of lemons:
* Assistant US Attorney Emory Hurley in Phoenix, who helped oversee the straw-gun-purchase disaster. He’s being transferred out of the US Attorney’s Office’s criminal division and into the civil division.
* Assistant ATF Special Agents in Charge George Gillett and Jim Needles. Moved to other positions.
* ATF deputy director of operations in the West, William McMahon. Promoted to ATF headquarters.
* ATF Phoenix field supervisors William Newell and David Voth. Promoted to new management positions in Washington.
Keep your friends close and your henchmen on the verge of spilling all the beans closer.
There’s been only one visible Fast and Furious resignation: U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix, who quietly stepped down on Tuesday. One of his last acts? Opposing the request of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s family to qualify as crime victims in a court case against the thug who bought the Fast and Furious guns used in Terry’s murder.
The fish rots from the head down, of course. DOJ is run by Eric Holder, the Beltway swamp creature who won bipartisan approval for his nomination — even after putting political interests ahead of security interests at the Clinton Justice Department in pushing presidential pardons for both big donor Marc Rich and several Puerto Rican FALN terrorists.
Screw up, move up, cover up: It’s the Holder way, the Obama way, the Washington way. And innocent Americans pay.
Michelle Malkin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. This column originally appeared in the New York Post on August 31.
Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate. Her wide-ranging and news-breaking commentary has been honored by several national organizations.