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Washington Examiner Editorial: Don’t Make ATF’s Chief Ken Melson a Scapegoat in Operation Fast and Furious

Ken Melson/atf photo

By The Washington Examiner
Editorial Page

WASHINGTON — Credible media reports have it that Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, will get his walking papers this week as a result of his approval of Operation Fast and Furious, aka “Gunwalker.”

That’s the program in which ATF purposely allowed as many as 2,000 lethal weapons, including assault rifles such as the infamous AK-47, to be sold to representatives of Mexican drug cartels. The idea was that ATF would be able to link the weapons to specific individuals and prosecute them after the firearms were recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S. Melson and other senior ATF officials enthusiastically backed Gunwalker, which originated in the agency’s Phoenix office.

The ludicrous logic behind Gunwalker was exposed in December when a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in a confrontation with drug cartel thugs about 18 miles inside the U.S. border with Mexico in the Arizona desert. Two Gunwalker assault rifles were recovered from the scene in which Agent Brian Terry, an ex-Marine with a wife and children, died in the shootout. At least 150 Mexican law enforcement officers and an unknown number of cartel figures and civilians have also been killed with Gunwalker weapons. What ATF officials thought would become a key tool in bringing down the Mexican cartels instead, and predictably, became a U.S. government-sanctioned gun-running operation that bought enough high-powered weapons to equip hundreds of remorseless killers operating on both sides of the border.

That Melson should be removed is obvious, as should other senior ATF officials in Washington and in the field. But Gunwalker could not have gone as far as it did without the approval of senior Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, which is why The Washington Examiner last week called for Holder’s resignation.

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