Kenneth Melson was expected to testify before Congress at some point in July, as part of a deal between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley.
According to John Solomon reporting for The Daily Beast, that deposition took place on the 4th of July: Gun Sting Surprise:
While many Americans celebrated over barbecues and fireworks, acting ATF director Kenneth Melson arrived Monday with a private attorney on Capitol Hill for the interview, the sources said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity.
During hours of questioning, Melson told investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he has recently learned that other federal agencies may have withheld crucial information about possible drug cartel connections to the gun trafficking ring that his agency had tried to crack during a 15-month operation that used controversial tactics, the sources said.
In his interview, Melson said most of the operational decisions for the Fast and Furious operation were approved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, which was leading a special strike force on gun trafficking, and that even he didn’t know about the specific orders to let straw buyers walk off with guns until after the controversy erupted, according to the sources.
He told the investigators he has subsequently learned that ATF agents during the operation did observe straw buyers transferring guns they had purchased to third parties, a possible legal violation, but did not interdict the weapons at the instructions of their immediate supervisors, the sources added.
Under questioning, Melson confirmed information the congressional investigators had received elsewhere that DEA and FBI had information about possible cartel connections to the gun trafficking ring under investigation but did not share it with ATF at the time. He expressed his own concerns about the flow of information from other agencies during a critical time in the war against Mexican border violence, the sources said.
Congressional investigators now want to know whether any of the players belatedly disclosed to the ATF had been working as assets or informants for other federal agencies, the sources said.
Melson also disclosed the existence of documents about the ATF case that have not yet been turned over to congressional investigators, the sources added.
Read the full report at The Daily Beast.
It sounds to me like they might be going for the “communication breakdown” defense – the lack of information sharing between agencies is supposed to explain how more than 1,700 weapons were allowed to walk across the border straight into the hands of criminals.
Hmmm. It still doesn’t make sense. It’s like they want to make the fall guy, the ‘communication breakdown’. But there has to be someone who knew what was going on, and was giving the orders.
Hans Spakovsky of PJ Media has more on Melson’s “the secret testimony” to congressional investigators: Gunwalker: The ATF’s Kenneth Melson Blows the Whistle on the Justice Department:
This morning, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley released a copy of a letter they sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on July 5 about Melson’s testimony. Melson’s revelations raise even more serious issues not only about the operation itself, but about apparent attempts by the Justice Department to mislead Congress on the details of the operation.
Contrary to the Justice Department’s denials, according to Melson, ATF agents specifically witnessed transfers of weapons from straw purchasers to third parties without taking any further action. Melson claimed that it was not until the public disclosure of the operation that he personally reviewed the “hundreds of documents” related to the case. He said he became “sick to his stomach” when he learned the full story. Even more shocking is that some of the “gun trafficking ‘higher-ups’ that the ATF sought to identify were already known to other agencies and may even have been paid as informants” by agencies such as the FBI and the DEA.
I was afraid some sort of fix was in, but no – this looks very bad for the Justice Dept. I didn’t realize that he was meeting with investigators behind their back…
The details of Operation Fast & Furious just keep getting worse from the standpoint of prosecutorial ineptitude and incompetence. But with Melson’s testimony, it is also appears that the Justice Department and specifically Deputy Attorney General James Cole have been obstructing Congress and engaging in a cover-up to prevent Congress and the public from finding out just how much the leadership of the Justice Department was involved in this expanding scandal.