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Tag: Ken Melson

Ex-ATF Chief Blames Underlings for Fast and Furious

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The then-acting head of ATF, Ken Melson, told Congressional investigators back in July that he was irate that his underlings didn’t tell him about the controversial agency program Fast and Furious, an operation that encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to “straw purchasers” with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Melson, who made the statement during a July deposition, complained that his chief intelligence officer at ATF was upset with the operation, but did little to shut it down, the Times reported.

“He didn’t come in and tell me, either,” Melson said, according to the LA Times. “And he’s on the same damn floor as I am.”

Melson resigned under pressure in August.

B. Todd Jones, the current acting head of ATF who replaced Melson, commented, saying Melson let field agents and supervisors violate the agency’s approved tactics.

Jones told the Times that the weak management structure at ATF — five acting directors in the last six years — provided a green light for some field agents to ignore Washington and act independently.

“There was a vacuum. Fast and Furious went off the rails, and there were plenty of opportunities to pivot so none of this would happen,” Jones said, according to the Times.

To read more click here.

ATF Grenade Case Linked to Cartels Contributed to Ouster of Top Officials


U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke

 By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The case involving an Arizona man who was let go after being accused of supplying grenades to the Mexican drug cartels, appears to have contributed to the ousting of the Arizona U.S. Attorney and the acting head of the ATF, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Reporter Evan Perez reports that U.S. officials are investigating the missteps in the case that was being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.

Acting ATF head Ken Melson and Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke abruptly resigned last month in wake of the controversy surrounding Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers or middlemen, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

At the time of their resignations, the controversy surrounding Fast and Furious was  mentioned in the media as a key factor to their abrupt departures. The grenade case was not mentioned.

To read full story click here.

 

ATF Dir. Ken Melson Getting Out and Talking to the Troops

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ken Melson, the acting director of ATF, who seemed like a goner last month, is now acting as if he might be around for a while.

In fact, Melson is making an effort to show more leadership by communicating more with the troops. Last week, he conducted a town hall meeting at headquarters to discuss the state of ATF with employees, according to several law enforcement people familiar with the situation.

And since then, he’s been conducting meetings with groups of special agents in charge, who head up ATF offices around the country.

One person familiar with the meetings said the townhall meeting at headquarters dealt primarily with ATF’s budget and other agency matters.  But at least one person asked Melson about Operation Fast and Furious, the controversial operation that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell weapons to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

ATF lost track of a lot of those weapons, some of which surfaced at crime scenes. That triggered a major controversy for ATF, perhaps the biggest since Waco.

In meeting with SACs in recent days, Melson has tried to assure the officials that Fast and Furious was a Phoenix Division issue and was not a systemic problem within ATF,  according to one person.

However, the ATF officials in the field told Melson that the Fast and Furious issue went far beyond the Phoenix Division — at least when it came to harming morale inside the agency.

Many SACs were also angry about the recent Congressional testimony of William Newell, who headed the Phoenix office during the Fast and Furious Operation. They felt his testimony was less than forthright.

Melson indicated that no punitive action would be taken against  anyone at ATF until the Office of Inspector General issues a report on the matter.

Rumors had circulated that Melson, who complained about being the Justice Department scapegoat in the Fast and Furious mess, might be replaced in early July by Andrew Traver, head of the Chicago ATF, who has been nominated by the White House to become the permanent director.

But that never happened, possibly because it would have looked bad if  Melson was replaced just as he was starting to speak up about the mess to Congressional investigators.

Melson had complained to Congressional investigators that he was being muzzled by the Justice Department and kept from communicating to the troops about the Fast and Furious controversy.

According to his testimony provided to investigators and released by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Melson said:

“Part of the problem, and one of the things that infuriated me was that I have not been allowed to communicate to the troops about anything. So, for example, earlier on, I wanted to do a broadcast that just talked about the case because everybody was wondering what’s this case about? What are you doing at headquarters?

“How come you were not issuing press releases and how come you were not ordering press conference ad pushing back and things like that? And I was told not do do that. Then after we wanted to do several things to talk to our people about what this case was about, what it wasn’t about, and you know, where were were going and the fact that we were cooperating as much as we could with the committee and with the Department, but we were restrained from doing that.”

ATF’s Director Ken Melson Agrees to Talk to Senate Investigators About Fast and Furious

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The plot thickens.

Acting ATF Director Ken Melson has agreed to talk to Senate investigators about Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF program that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers so federal agents could trace them to the Mexican cartels , according to The Daily Beast and Newsweek.

The website reported that the development was a “potentially important breakthrough” for Congress, which has been trying to figure out who in the Obama administration gave the okay for the disastrous program. He is expected to provide testimony next months.

Newsweek and the The Daily Beast testimony reported that the deal to get Melson to testify was part of a deal brokered  between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley.

The website reported that the deal involved giving fellow Republicans full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses. In return,  Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees — Jim Cole for deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco for assistant attorney general for national security and Virginia Seitz as head of legal counsel, Newsweek and The Daily Beast reported.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

White House Likely to Replace Head of ATF

ATF's Kenneth Melson /fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Obama White House  had no intention of keeping Ken Melson, acting head of ATF.

In fact, last November it nominated Andrew Traver, head of the Chicago ATF office, to become the permanent head of the agency.  But the confirmation process seemed to hit a big bump as the pro-gun lobbying groups attacked him, claiming he was hostile to gun owners.

But things may be changing.

Wall Street Journal reporters Evan Perez and Devlin Barrett report that the Justice Department is likely to soon oust Melson. The move would come as  the agency is coming   under sharp attack by some Congressional members for a questionable ATF operation known as Fast and Furious, which encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers — all with the hope of tracing the guns to Mexican drug cartels.

Problem was, agents lost track of the guns and authorities say some of the guns were linked to the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry late last year.

The Journal reported that  Traver is set to travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

The Journal said the administration is trying to figure out whether it should name Traver acting director or name someone else as “acting” in the interim  while Traver awaits  Senate action.

ATF spokesman Scot Thomasson told the Journal : “Acting Director Kenneth Melson continues to be focused on leading ATF in its efforts to reduce violent crime and to stem the flow of firearms to criminals and criminal organizations. We are not going to comment on any speculations.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICE ACT STORIES OF INTEREST

ATF Creating 7 New Groups to Cut Flow of Illegal Weapons to Mexico

Ken Melson and Dennis Burke/atf photo
Ken Melson and Dennis Burke/atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — ATF is creating seven new anti-gunrunner groups around the country to try and cut the flow of illegal firearms to Mexico.

In announcing the new move, ATF said it was placing the groups “along traditional and newly-discovered firearms trafficking routes and hubs” in Atlanta, Dallas, Brownsville, Tex., Las Vegas, Miami, Oklahoma City and Sierra Vista, Az.

The groups are being created as a result of the 2010 emergency supplemental appropriation for border security. ATF received $37.5 million for Project Gunrunner to halt the flow of illegal guns to Mexico, the agency said.

Read more »

ATF Defends Agent Facing Murder Rap in Virgin Islands

caribbean-mapBy Allan Lengel
For AOL News

WASHINGTON — From Capitol Hill to the Caribbean, a controversy is growing over a decision by Virgin Islands officials to charge a federal agent with second-degree murder in a 2008 shooting. The agent, William Clark, remains on the job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — and his agency is adamant that he has done nothing wrong.

The ATF responded to the charge by removing its agents, including Clark, from the U.S. territory. And in Washington, U.S. Rep. Chris Lee, R-N.Y., on Monday night introduced a congressional resolution applauding Clark for his “heroic action” in the 2008 incident.

“The ATF incident review examined the circumstances and cleared Will of any wrongdoing,” Lee said in a statement to AOL News. “Will is a hero who acted in self-defense while protecting a battered woman from an intoxicated, abusive man.”

But the congressional delegate from the Virgin Islands described her colleague’s actions as an attempt to meddle with a case that is “rightfully before the court.”

Delegate Donna M. Christensen told AOL News that while the Clark incident has created “tension” with some congressional colleagues, she is reluctant to second-guess “my police and attorney general, who felt there was enough of a question that excessive force was used.”

To read full story click here.

Fear of Pro-Gun Lobby Groups in Election Year Leaves ATF Without Senate-Confirmed Leader

Kenneth Melson/fbi photo

Kenneth Melson

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — There have been times when ATF has felt like the stepchild in the world of law enforcement — particularly when compared to the FBI.

This may be one of those times.

Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reports that 15 months after President Obama has taken office, the White House has yet to appoint someone to head ATF.

ATF agents have been saying all along that the White House doesn’t want to deal with appointment before the upcoming elections, fearing it would dredge up some hot button issues like gun control and rally the powerful pro-gun lobby against anti-gun candidates.

James Cavanaugh/ticklethewire.com photo

James Cavanaugh

Consequently, the acting director, Kenneth Melson, was recently demoted to deputy director. A law limits how long acting chiefs can head up federal agencies, Newsweek reports.

“It’s shocking and indefensible,” says Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control group, “that when you have a huge problem from gun trafficking and gun violence, they have left this agency leaderless.”

“The message that’s sent to the employees is, ‘You don’t matter,'” Jim Cavanaugh, a 33-year bureau veteran who retired this month as the agent in charge of the Nashville office told Newsweek.

To read more of Newsweek report click here.