ATF Director Melson and Az. U.S. Atty. Dennis Burke Stepping Down

                                                                                                                                Melson and Dennis Burke/atf file photo
By Allan Lengel
ATF acting Director Kenneth E. Melson, who took a lot of heat for the failed “Operation Fast and Furious” program, announced Tuesday he was stepping down  to become 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.
The Justice Department announced that B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, will replace Melson as acting director, effective Wednesday. He will also remain U.S. Attorney in Minnesota.
At the same time, the Justice Department announced the resignation of  U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke, who oversaw the Phoenix Division during Operation Fast and Furious. His sudden resignation appeared to be part of the fallout from Fast and Furious.
Melson was at the helm during one the agency’s more turbulent periods, thanks to ATF’s “Operation Fast and Furious” , which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

ATF lost track of some of the guns. Some surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border.

“ATF employees are hard working and dedicated to the mission of protecting the public every day, and in my time here I have seen firsthand their extraordinary commitment to stopping violent crime,” said Melson in a statement announcing his resignagtion. “I will miss working with them, but know that my continued work at the Department will contribute in their pursuit and prosecution of violent criminals.”

On Dennis Burke’s resignation, U.S. Atty. Eric Holder Jr. stated;

“Under his leadership, the office has made great progress in its pursuit of justice with the creation of special units focusing on civil rights enforcement and rule of law, as well as more robust outreach to key communities, particularly in Indian Country. The office’s quick response to the devastating shootings in January that claimed the lives of several people and critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was crucial in arresting and charging the alleged shooter.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), a critic of ATF who has been leading the probe into Operation Fast and Furious, issued a statement after Melson announced his resignation:

“While the reckless disregard for safety that took place in Operation Fast and Furious certainly merits changes within the Department of Justice, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue its investigation to ensure that blame isn’t offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department.

Rep. Issa/gov photo

“There are still many questions to be answered about what happened in Operation Fast and Furious and who else bears responsibility, but these changes are warranted and offer an opportunity for the Justice Department to explain the role other officials and offices played in the infamous efforts to allow weapons to flow to Mexican drug cartels.

” I also remain very concerned by Acting Director Melson’s statement that the Department of Justice is managing its response in a manner intended to protect its political appointees. Senator Grassley and I will continue to press the Department of Justice for answers in order to ensure that a reckless effort like Fast and Furious does not take place again.”

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