Fast and Furious: Taxpayers Paid for Illegal Guns? Issa to Holder: Don’t Fire Ken Melson

Acting BATF Director, Ken Melson, gave testimony before Congress on July 4, 2011, telling them taxpayers  may have “financed” Operation Fast and Furious and Project GunRunner. Older news reported that Melson was considering resigning, but then he came out and said he was NOT leaving. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent word to Attorney General Eric Holder to not even think about firing Melson, as he has done with other whistleblowers.

Operation Fast and Furious

In this letter, Melson  said (paraphrased):

1) the DOJ had not made him aware of his right to appear before Congress with his own attorney. Issa chided Holder for failing to give the information to Melson;

2) the DOJ kept BATF agents from testifying and took complete control of all requests made by Congress;

3) BATF agents were forbidden to communicate with Congress

4) Melson saw documentation of wiretaps and Reports of Investigation that he was not aware of, and it made him “sick at his stomach;”

5) The ATF were not told of paid informants from other agencies

From Inspector General to Acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole, June 16, 2011:

The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities…

It is one thing to argue that the ends justify the means in an attempt to defend a policy that puts building a big case ahead of stopping known criminals from getting guns. Yet it is a much more serious matter to conceal from Congress the possible involvement of other agencies in identifying and maybe even working with the same criminals that Operation Fast and Furious was trying to identify. If this information is accurate, then the whole misguided operation might have been cut short if not for catastrophic failures to share key information.

This appears at the end of the letter, after the signatures:

(1)  Specifically, no officer or employee may attempt to prohibit or prevent “any other officer or employee of the Federal Government from having direct oral or written communication or contact with any Member, committee, or subcommittee of the Congress” about a matter related to his employment or the agency “in any way, irrespective of whether such communication or contact is at the initiative” of the employee or Congress (emphasis added).

Moreover, the prohibition also applies to any officer or employee who “removes, suspends from duty without pay … any other officer or employee of the Federal Government …by reason of any communication or contact of such other officer or employee with any Member, committee, or subcommittee of the Congress.” Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, P.L.111-117, 123 Stat. 3034, § 714 (2010), as continued by §1104 ofP.L. 112-10- which extends the funding levels, as well as “the authority and conditions provided in such Acts,” through September 30, 2011.

See generally, Government Accountability Office, “Department of Health and Human Services-Chief Actuary’s Communications with Congress,” B-302911 (Sep. 7, 2004) (discussing the history and background in support of the government-wide prohibition on attempts to prevent direct communications with Congress). As you know, obstructing or impeding a Congressional inquiry is also a criminal violation under 18 U.S.C. § 1505.

Si Vis Pacem has more, including this great round-up of sources on Fast and Furious and GunRunner.

Linked by The Lonely Conservative in Wednesday Quick Hits.