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ATF Agents See Director’s Departure as a “Fresh Start”

 

Ken Melson/atf photo

 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Many ATF agents on Tuesday welcomed the news that acting Director Ken Melson was stepping down, saying his departure marked a step in the right direction in trying to revive a demoralized agency.

“I think everyone knew this was coming,” said one veteran ATF agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It’s a breath of fresh air.  It’s a fresh start. That’s the general sentiment.”

Melson’s departure seemed to break the paralysis that the department seemed to be in after  taking regular beatings in  the media and on Capitol Hill over “Operation Fast and Furious”, an ATF program out of Arizona that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers or middlemen, all with the hopes of tracking the guns to the Mexican Cartels.

Melson was never going to become the permanent director. The White House nominee for the spot, Andrew  Traver, who heads up Chicago’s ATF, had problems getting confirmed. So Melson remaining in that spot only accentuated how problematic things had become and how politically weak ATF was.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) led the charge, and began investigating the Fast and Furious program. Melson remained silent during most the controversy, which angered some within ATF. Melson eventually spoke to Congressional investigators and complained that the Justice Department had muzzled him and prevented him from even explaining to his troops what was going on with Fast and Furious.

Tuesday’s announcement gave hope to agents, including one who said morale was the lowest it had ever been — even lower than in the wake of Waco.

“There is cautious optimism,” said the agent. “We can move forward. ”

The agent said he had heard good things about the new acting director , B. Todd Jones, the U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.

“I’m hearing positive things about him,” he said. “He’s pro-ATF.”

The agent added that Melson stepping down was a good start, but “more needs to be done.”

Another agent called Melson’s departure “bitter-sweet”, saying “he’s a very personable individual, a good leader.”

“But I can only look forward,” the agent said.

Interestingly, Melson will return to the Justice Department where he once headed up the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices around the country. In recent times, during the Fast and Furious operation, he seemed to develop a distrust for the Justice Department, according to one source.

Melson will head over to Justice as a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy (OLP) where he will specialize in forensic science policy issues at the Department of Justice

 


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