Geraldo Rivera and Liberal pundits are offended at Rep. Darrell Issa’s Contempt of Congress vote for Attorney General Eric Holder, calling him an opportunist and accusing him of taking advantage of Fast and Furious in an election year – and worse invoking the name of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry for political gain. The truth is, Holder has forbidden contact with the very person who may be the key figure in Fast and Furious, the former BATF acting Director, Ken Melson. There are still
14,000 140,000 documents withheld by the DOJ, at least one characterized as a “smoking gun” implicating “high-ranking officials,” and one or some, regarding wiretaps, or maybe one containing all. Among the unreleased documents are emails Melson has already told Congress about, and perhaps has already provided copies to Issa, but Issa clearly feels Justice must hand them over.
In the middle of the fray, and after Melson and his personal attorney met with members of congress in early July 2011, Melson was moved from the BATF to the Department of Justice. I can find no news on him since, other than Holder refusing to let him honor Congress’ subpoena. So much for Justice at the higher levels of our government.
In a letter rom Rep. Issa and Senator Charles Grassley to Eric Holder on July 5, 2011, Ken Melson was the focus. The letter laid-out Melson’s long “career” in government:
Mr. Melson served as the First Assistant to the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia for 21 years, from 1986 to 2007. That is a career position. After the controversy over the firing of the U.S. Attorneys [Bush-Gonzalez] he took over the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA). He indicated that he was asked to convert to a non-career Senior Executive Service (SES), a politically appointed position, in order to speed the hiring process, and he agreed. However, this former position at EOUSA is currently filled by a career SES employee, Marshall Jarrett. As you know, for civil servants, the distinction between career and non-career status is significant.
In 2009, he said he was asked to take over as Acting Director of the ATF. Acting Director of the ATF is by its nature a temporary job. According to Mr. Melson, he was willing to serve the Department with the understanding that after a short tenure as Acting Director, he would return to a position as a career senior executive elsewhere within the Department. However, two days after he told Acting Deputy Attorney General Cole about serious issues involving lack of information sharing, the Wall Street Journal reported that unnamed sources said that Melson was about to be ousted.
The gist, I think, is that a “career” employee did as he was asked and took less secure positions because his superiors asked him to, with the full expectation that he would return to a “career” status job somewhere. A chat with a DOJ official about Fast and Furious ended that expectation, and news broke that Melson would be asked to resign. He refused, indicating he would not be the fall guy for Fast and Furious.
Issa chided Holder for not properly informing Melson of his right to appear before Congress with his personal attorney, rather than a DOJ attorney. It didn’t stop there. Issa pointed out that Melson “no longer enjoyed due process protections afforded to career officials.”
If other important fact witnesses like Mr. Melson have a desire to communicate directly with the Committees they should be informed that they are free to do so. They should also be notified that if they are represented by personal counsel, they may appear with personal counsel rather than with Department lawyers.
Any decision about Mr. Melson’s future with the Department would need to be justified solely on the basis of the facts and the needs of the agency, rather than on his decision to speak to us.
The message: don’t think about firing Ken Melson for working with Congress.
In the video below, you will hear Issa say that Melson did not know about gunwalking until he began looking at agency correspondence. I doubt few believe that. Reading the work of those who have spent a lot of time writing about Fast and Furious, Ken Melson seemingly was well-aware of gunwalking, was briefed weekly and had cameras installed in his office so that he could watch straw purchasers ‘purchasing’ inside gun shops.
On June 15, 2011, a notice was posted on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform website bearing this statement:
…Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) released three e-mails detailing the intimate involvement of ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson and Acting Deputy Director Bill Hoover in Operation Fast and Furious:
The first email written by David Voth says “Please let me know if you would like these “massaged.” The second email announces “DAD’s flight arrival in Phoenix. The third email informs David Voth that Ken Melson and Mr. Hoover are “briefed weekly” on gunwalking (although the word “gunwalking” does not appear in the emails). Link to the emails at PJMedia in David Owen’s June 28, 2011 article.
Kenneth E. Melson, the ATF’s acting director, also told congressional investigators this month that the affidavits prepared to obtain wiretaps used in the ill-fated operation were inconcistent with Justice Department officials’ public statements about the program. Justice Department officials advised him not to raise his concerns with Congress about “institutional problems” with the Fast and Furious operation, Melson said.
Three other ATF officials were moved from the Phoenix offices to DOJ Washington, D.C.: Many speculate the moves were “promotions.” The DOJ maintains the moves were only lateral.
The three supervisors – William Newell and and David Voth, both field supervisors who managed the program out of the agencys Phoenix office, and William McMahon, who was the ATFs deputy director of operations in the West – are being transferred to Washington for new management positions at the agency’s headquarters, the newspaper reported.
William (Bill) Newell, one of the three mentioned above, informed investigators that he told his “friend” Kevin O’Reilly, the White House National Security Director for North America, about Fast and Furious. One of two emails begins with Newell saying “You didn’t get these from me…”
Newell earned that promotion. He claimed the Agents-turned-Whistleblowers “never complained about the investigation while it was being conducted.” Definitely promotion-worthy, even though Newell had already admitted his own wrongdoing in Operation Fast and Furious.
Senior ATF Agent John Dodson is presumably one of the whistleblowers Newell is referring to. Dodson said he was (paraphrasing) shocked that straw purchasers walked with guns (some were convicted felons) and were not followed. Worse, he alleges he was not allowed to follow or trace the weapons. When Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered, and the weapons at the scene were identified as Fast and Furious weapons, Dodson went public and interviewed with CBS News.
Today, Dodson is still with ATF. News broke yesterday that Dodson and another whistleblower have been placed under the supervision of Scot Thomasson, Division Chief of the Firearms Operations Unit, who threatened to “take them down,” according to Issa and Grassley.
In the meantime, Eric Holder let no grass grow under his well-shod feet. By September 2011, he had shut down Fast and Furious prosecutions in Arizona and moved them elsewhere. Wouldn’t it be a bit uncomfortable for U.S. Attorneys, in a state used, abused and sued by the Department of Justice – a prosecutor knowing all too well that the streets he/she purports to protect – are likely to have criminals with high-powered weapons prowling the streets, courtesy of the DOJ?
Melson’s new position is said to be senior advisor on forensic science, Office of Legal Programs, whatever that is. If the House of Representatives has a “cell” in its basement, as Nancy Pelosi said, and if she could have put Karl Rove into that cell for Contempt of Congress, of which Rove was never charged, and there was never a vote, can you imagine what we would find in the deep, dark depths of the formidabe Justice building? Maybe Melson? Surely not.
At 5:18 mins into the following video, Issa says:
ISSA: A year ago, July 3rd and 4th, the acting ATF Director, Kenneth Melson, told us he believed they were covering for high-ranking political appointees. That is the reason he came forward and gave his voluntary testimony. He wanted to clear the air about what he knew, what he didn’t know, and in fact, in the correspondence he had, he discovered guns were walking and that some of his ATF agents were a part of it.
GRETA: Did he give you names?
ISSA: He did, and we pursued those. That’s one of the problems. He gave us the names. He gave us the emails that he sent too, and those are some of the emails that we’ve been denied.
GRETA: (paraphrasing) do you think the names he gave you are obstructing the investigation or a part of a coverup, or are they cooperating?
ISSA: They are not providing the emails that we are looking for. We have to consider that a coperup, because if Kenneth melson gave us honest testimony, and it is a crime to lie to us, they were informed and should not have allowed that false letter to come to Congress and to last for 10 more months, at minimum
Democrats can forgive us for believing Issa has pertinent information involving someone at the DOJ or beyond, that he is denied access to. After all, at least one American has died, probably more, and 200-300 Mexicans died on Mexican soil due to Fast and Furious. Shine some sunlight on Kenneth Melson, and Fast and Furious might go away faster…for most of us.
Rep. Darrell Issa – Greta Van Susteren: Ken Melson, Fast and Furious (video)