Word is out that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms acting head Kenneth Melson is going to be sacrificed some time this week over Operation Fast & Furious:
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[*].
The Wall Street Journal sort of gets it wrong, there: the problem was not that smugglers were allowed to buy guns. It was that they were allowed to then smuggle them. The evidence is pretty damning that higher-ups in both BATF and the Department of Justice were looking to trace drug-trafficking networks in Mexico by seeing which gangs ended up with federally-supplied firearms… and if you think that that strategy looks incredibly pernicious when just written out that way, well, I used the word ‘damning’ for a reason. Particularly since the federal strategy in this case led to Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry being murdered by someone using one of the tracked firearms.
Being one of the aforementioned higher-ups (Melton was the guy watching the original sales to smugglers go down in real-time, via hidden camera), it’s easy to see why he’s scheduled to get the axe. As to whether that will be enough… well, as AoSHQ notes, Operation Fast & Furious also drew from the DEA, FBI, ICE, and the IRS. Have you ever seen an inter-department gutter war when there’s been a messy PR disaster, the knives are out, and somebody has to take the fall? It’s great fun! – if you’re not part of one of the groups involved, of course. If you are, that’s when you start looking for a suitable victim. Which is to say, somebody higher up the bureaucratic food chain than you are.
So, Acting Head of ATF may not be enough. Especially since the House investigation has all the time in the world and a certain happy willingness to re-establish the legislature’s role as watchdog over executive branch abuses…
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Which would kind of suggest that maybe the Political Class should stop picking candidates that are unacceptable to gun-rights groups, but that’s just me.