5 years, 9 months ago
The Justice Department is expected to oust the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to people familiar with the matter, amid a troubled federal antitrafficking operation that has grown into the agency’s biggest scandal in nearly two decades.
Moves toward the replacement of Kenneth Melson, acting ATF director since April 2009, could begin next week, although the precise sequence of events remains to be decided, these people said.
The shakeup shows the extent of the political damage caused by the gun-trafficking operation called Fast and Furious, which used tactics that allowed suspected smugglers to buy large numbers of firearms. Growing controversy over the program has paralyzed a long-beleaguered agency buffeted by partisan battles. The ATF has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2006, with both the Bush and Obama administrations unable to overcome opposition from gun-rights groups to win approval of nominees.
In November, President Barack Obama nominated Andrew Traver, the head of the ATF’s Chicago office, as permanent ATF director. The nomination stalled in the Senate after the National Rifle Association said Mr. Traver had a “demonstrated hostility” to the rights of gun owners.
Mr. Traver is set to travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the people said. The administration is weighing whether to name Mr. Traver as acting director or choose another interim chief while awaiting Senate action on his nomination, they said.
The administration is attempting to handle three issues with one move. First, the Obama administration is attempting to salvage what it can from the horribly failed project gunrunner and throw out a sacrificial lamb to the Congress. We all know this. Second, they are attempting to conduct another battlefield ruse. This is merely a flanking action designed to help stop the Congressional frontal assault on the administration and justice department. The WSJ article quotes Jim Carney again denying that Mr. Obama knew anything about the project. But there is indication that there was understanding and approval not only from the justice department but also from the White House. How high does the knowledge go? Who knew about this in the White House, and when did s/he know it? A special prosecutor is needed to flesh out these details. It simply isn’t acceptable to throw Kenneth Melson under the bus and walk away from this. Accountability must start at the very top and go to the very bottom of the chain of command on this.
Third – and perhaps more significant than any of these goals – the administration sees this as a timely opportunity to slip in Andrew Traver to the ATF. Andrew Traver’s views are extreme, and he even wants the Centers for Disease Control to have oversight of the firearms industry. If the administration cannot get what they wanted out of gunrunner, they intend to install someone else even more anti-firearm than Melson at the head of ATF. Not only is there no repentance for sins committed, there isn’t even the hint of an attempt to change. Several dead ATF agents and Mexican authorities, Melson thrown under the bus, a Congressional investigation, international embarrassment, and firearms flooding Mexico from this whole ugly affair – they are all just a few “broken eggs” for real change this administration intends to bring.