After ouster of ATF head, where does Fast and Furious probe go now?
ATF acting head Ken Melson stepped down Tuesday amid a probe into the ill-fated Fast and Furious gun tracing program. But Congressional investigators believe there's more blame to go around.
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So far, the DEA has admitted to playing an "indirect role" in the Fast and Furious gambit, but investigators are asking deeper questions about whether some of the cartel leaders receiving Fast and Furious weapons were paid informants of the DEA and FBI.Skip to next paragraph
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The Justice Department, which oversees the ATF, DEA, and FBI, has opened an investigation into the program at President Obama's request.
Mr. Melson led ATF as interim head since 2009, when a plan was hatched to stymie cross-border gun trafficking.
The agency planned to attack the border gun trade with a new strategy: allowing gun dealers along the border to sell guns to known straw buyers who could then be traced to Mexican cartels. The goal was to help the ATF build criminal cases that would hobble the cartels and ease the brutal violence associated with the drug trade.
But as guns went missing and later showed up at violent crime scenes in the US and Mexico – and at the same time prosecutions lagged – resistance to the program began building at lower levels of the ATF.
After two AK-47 rifles found at the scene of US border patrol agent Brian Terry's murder in December were linked to Fast and Furious, ATF whistleblowers contacted Congress. Rep. Darrel Issa (R) of California and Senator Grassley, joined forces to investigate who knew about the program when, and how it was allowed to go forward against the instincts of field agents, who are in the business of confiscating, not trafficking, weapons.
In an interview with Fox News, Mr. Issa said Melson's departure was appropriate, but the congressman also praised Melson's willingness to tell Congress that his Justice Department superiors "were doing more damage control than anything," a revelation that has fueled the probe.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee isn't content with Justice's personnel moves. The committee's investigation will continue “to ensure that blame isn’t offloaded on just a few individuals for a matter that involved much higher levels of the Justice Department," Issa, the chairman of the committee, told The Wall Street Journal.
The investigation is slated to pick up once Congress returns from its summer break next week. Issa has requested a meeting with Mr. Holder upon his return to Washington.
"I do think we need to work jointly to get this investigation wrapped up with some satisfactory conclusions that we are not heading toward right now," Issa told Fox News. "We know we are being gamed and we think the time for the game should be up."