Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson has been reassigned to a lesser post in the Justice Department and the U.S. attorney for Arizona was also pushed out Tuesday as fallout from Operation Fast and Furious reached new heights.
Melson's step down from his role as head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the position of senior adviser on forensic science in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Programs is effective by close of business Tuesday, administration officials announced. U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota B. Todd Jones will replace Melson.
U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke, one of the officials closely tied to Fast and Furious, is also a casualty in a shakeup tied to the botched gun-running program. Burke was on the hot seat last week with congressional investigators and, according to several sources, got physically sick during questioning and could not finish his session.
The purge of those responsible for the firearms trafficking scandal continued as new documents reveal a deeper involvement of federal agencies beyond ATF.
In Phoenix, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, who oversaw Fast and Furious on a day-to-day basis, was reassigned from the criminal to civil division. Also in Phoenix, three out of the four whistleblowers involved in the case have been reassigned to new positions outside Arizona. Two are headed to Florida, one to South Carolina.
Hurley's reassignment came after three ATF supervisors responsible for the operation were promoted. William G. McMahon, a former deputy director of operations, took over the Office of Professional Responsibility. Field supervisors William D. Newell and David Voth also moved up despite heavy criticism.
The moves follow a series of reports by Fox News detailing the face-off between Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, whose investigators have recently broadened their probe. It now reportedly shows a deeper involvement of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
"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 off-loaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department," Issa, chairman of the House panel.
"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. ... 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," Issa continued.
The cards are being reshuffled so as to hinder the investigation. This is a national and international disgrace. We disrupted law enforcement in Latin America so as to try and stick it to gun shop owners here in the states, and all our government did was provide aid and comfort to criminal drug lords, who then killed police officers, women, children, and at least two federal agents. Nice work, JustUs Department.