After the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) was found to have known about his bureau's botched gun-tracking sting, Operation Fast and the Furious, a number of observers expected him to be forced out of government. But today, Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the ATF, was reassigned to a Justice Department post as senior adviser on forensic science in the Office of Legal Policy.
Announcing the shakeup, Attorney General Eric Holder praised Melson's "decades of experience" and thanked him for his "dedication to the department over the least three decades." Nowhere in the Justice Department press release was the mention of the congressional and internal DOJ investigations into the Fast and Furious operation, a failed effort to sell and monitor guns across the U.S.-Mexico border in the hopes of trapping Mexican drug cartel leaders, which ended up having tragic consequences as Reuters explains:
Authorities had hoped they would be able to follow the guns to cartel leaders, but ATF agents did not track the weapons after they were transferred from the initial buyer to others. Some agents have said they were not allowed to continue the pursuit.
Instead, numerous weapons from the operation, which began in late 2009 and ran through 2010, have shown up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States.
U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry died in a December 2010 shootout on the American side of the border and two guns found there have been traced to the sting.
Calling Melson's role into question, a congressional probe on the matter "uncovered emails that showed Melson was regularly briefed on the botched operation," reports The Los Angeles Times. In another reassignment, CBS News reports that "the Assistant U.S. Attorney in Phoenix, Emory Hurley, who... helped oversee the controversial case is also expected to be transferred out of the Criminal Division into the Civil Division." Here's who's crying foul about the ATF shakeup: