Friday, June 17, 2011

WSJ: The Gunwalker Man headed for the door. Traver to replace him. More fun with hearings ahead. If Melson goes, Melson will roll.

"Head of ATF Is Likely to Go."

Me and my minions (grin) worked on this rumor all day today, and all we could confirm was that there were rumors from various sources saying the same thing BUT NO CONFIRMATION. We have learned to be careful about disinformation so we sat on the rumors until something else popped up. Here it is in a Wall Street Journal story by Evan Perez and Devlin Barrett:

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.

ATF spokesman Scot Thomasson said: "Acting Director Kenneth Melson continues to be focused on leading ATF in its efforts to reduce violent crime and to stem the flow of firearms to criminals and criminal organizations. We are not going to comment on any speculations."

Mr. Melson is the most senior official so far implicated in a congressional probe of the Fast and Furious operation. The ATF Phoenix office ran the program in 2009-2010 to monitor weapons purchases by suspected gun smugglers. Agency officials hoped eventually to build a case against major arms smugglers serving Mexican drug cartels. The ATF has struggled to stanch the flow of U.S. weapons to Mexican drug gangs.

At a House hearing this week, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, disclosed internal documents showing that Mr. Melson was closely involved in managing Fast and Furious operation. One email among ATF officials described Mr. Melson's request for an Internet link to hidden cameras the ATF had planted in gun shops cooperating with the operation, Mr. Issa said, citing the documents. That allowed Mr. Melson to watch a live feed of suspected "straw buyers," who purchase firearms on behalf of others, buying AK-47-style rifles, he said.

Mr. Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) are leading the congressional probe of Fast and Furious, which came to light after an Arizona shootout in December that killed a U.S. border agent. Two assault weapons bought in a gun shop that was part of the operation were found at the scene. The shooter and the gun used to kill the agent haven't been identified. A Mexican national is charged in the shootout.

Republican lawmakers say the agency was "reckless" in running the program and should have known that at least some of the thousands of weapons would end up in Mexico or be used in crimes in the U.S.

The office of the Justice Department's inspector general is investigating the matter.

Fast and Furious has grown into the agency's worst crisis since the ATF's 1993 raid on a religious sect in Waco, Texas, which triggered a gunbattle that killed four ATF agents. The fallout from the raid and subsequent government assault on the sect's compound led to years of recriminations and investigations of the ATF.

The Fast and Furious operation caused dissent in the ATF Phoenix office, according to three ATF agents who testified at a House hearing Wednesday. The agents said they battled supervisors who insisted on doing surveillance instead of arresting suspected straw buyers.

Despite the Justice Department's internal probe, the hearing helped cement the view among top Justice Department officials that Mr. Melson needed to be moved out before pressure from lawmakers grew more intense, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, testified at this week's hearing but gave few details of the program. Mr. Weich said that if the investigation found "flawed strategies" or "insufficient surveillance of weapons," the responsible officials would be held to account.

The ATF is at the forefront of the government's efforts to stem the flow of what both the U.S. and Mexican governments say is a flood of U.S. arms to Mexican cartels. ATF agents say stopping that flow is often complicated by gun-owning traditions, particularly in border states, and laws that make it difficult to prosecute illegal weapons sales.

Gun-rights groups, which dispute that the U.S. is a major source of firearms trafficked to Mexico, have criticized ATF attempts to increase regulation of gun purchases. At the same time, the Obama administration has been under pressure from big-city mayors and others who favor tighter restrictions.

In a 2010 audit, the Justice Department inspector general criticized the ATF for pursuing too many small-buyer cases and not using its resources to find major gun traffickers.

It's unclear how the current controversy will affect the administration's chances of winning Senate confirmation for Mr. Traver. Mr. Traver is a 24-year ATF veteran investigator and former Navy officer. As the head of the ATF office in Chicago, he made a priority of pursuing gang cases. In particular, he focused on pursuing street gangs that had spread from urban areas into the suburbs, according to people who have worked with him.

Some ATF agents believe the scandal could help highlight how Congress's refusal to approve an ATF leader contributes to the agency's troubles.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, in response to questions Friday, said, "I can tell you that, as the president has already said, he did not know about or authorize this operation."

Traver to go on the Univision Home Shopping Network to help market AKs to the cartels? Why not, he's been briefed on the Gunwalker Scandal since last year.

As the guy who first broke the news of the Traver nomination in early July of last year, I'll tell you this: The Traver confirmation hearing will cover a whole bunch of skeletons. Remember that Traver has been the heir-apparent for some time. THAT MEANS HE WAS CONSTANTLY BRIEFED ON WHAT BECAME THE GUNWALKER SCANDAL BEGINNING LAST YEAR. The question then becomes what did HE know and WHEN did he know it.

Remember, the hearing will be in front of Charles Grassley. I think you can count on the Resistance to provide him with a whole ream of questions for the virulently anti-firearm freedom Mr. Traver.

Then there's the question of what this means for Melson. Is he really ready to roll? Does the White House actually think they can hold the disintegrating dam by throwing The Gunwalker Man under the bus? Is there a promised Presidential Pardon if he accepts responsibility? Will he trade a potential jail sentence for a whispered promise? Does he REALLY trust these people that much?

Answer: If Melson goes, Melson will roll. The documents revealed so far take this far higher than him. There are all manner of laws, domestic and international, that Melson and his crew broke at the behest of his superiors. Insiders believe that he will trade Congressional immunity for a full confessional. THAT hearing will make "Black Wednesday" look like a happy affair for Eric Holder and his fellow Gunwalker conspirators.


Anonymous said...

Melson out= good.

I know there's a potential for an ugly Traver confirmation, but no guarantee. Rather, likely a recess appointment. Given our spineless Congress, I don't have many hopes. We'll see, I suppose.

This whole thing could be used to say, "See, we need a permanent director, better oversight, and Traver's our man."

I though Traver = bad.


Looks like Obama might get his way after all.

Dennis308 said...

Traver will never get a Senate Confirmation as head of BATF. And as much as I would love to see Melson Roll Over and name the names of those that "Really" Approved this fiasco of a "Operation" I doubt that he would live long enough to testify, as he surly would befall some fatal accident.


Scott J said...

Melson better stay out of Ft. Marcy Park.

Any IIIpers willing to help watch and make sure nothing happens to him?

Anonymous said...

Traver's name is on some of the emails as an addressee -- this is going back to the first releases of heavily redacted material. They did not usually redact Melson and Voth for some reason, but in a few cases they missed Hoover and Newell, and Emory Hurley (DOJ). And in an email or three they slipped up and didn't redact all of Traver's name -- and the position it was in, suggests that he was one of the regular addressees on that email tree.

I'm not surprised Traver's a former naval officer... they are taught not to trust the white hats with firearms, and if you look at the people in congress who don't trust the citizens with guns, they're mostly not vets, or Navy vets. (There are some exceptions like Rangel and Jack Reed, both former Army. But that's unusual).

PT said...

More fast and furious ak's found in mexico...

Mr Jones said...

This line in the WSJ article damn near made me all misty:

"The ATF has struggled to stanch the flow of U.S. weapons to Mexican drug gangs."

Bless their hearts - they try so hard to keep us safe. (sniff)

Mr Jones said...

Holy crap. I take back my criticism over CNN's reporting on this. Tonight (17th) on Anderson Pooper 360 I just watched the most devastating and detailed report on the whole mess yet. There were no efforts to shoe-horn gun control into the story - it was 100% unapologetic bewilderment and disgust at ATF - and disbelief that no one at DOJ seems to know who authorized it. I'm still dumbstruck that CNN told it like it is. Hope springs eternal.
There are people at DOJ stocking up on Pepto Bismol as we speak.

Dedicated_Dad said...

I'm surprised that you and others aren't all over *THIS* bit:

"...White House spokesman Jay Carney, in response to questions Friday, said, "I can tell you that, as the _resident has already said, he did not know about or authorize this operation..."

Actually, what the Pres__ent (Or, if you prefer, "_resident") has said was that he did not AUTHORIZE it. To my knowledge he's never claimed to not KNOW about it -- a point that Issa has already made...

Having his press-monkey make the "didn't know" claim is pretty slick, really -- this way if he ever gets proven to have known he can say that he never claimed not to -- that the press-monkey "misspoke"...

It's not as if he's got anything to worry about from the lap-dog media -- they're certainly not going to call him on it... After all, I'm SURE their knees are cramping up by now, and it's hard to speak up when you've got a mouth full of .... well... you know...

I swear -- I don't even recognize this country any more -- I've taken to calling it "This Place Where America Used To Be"...


Anonymous said...

As Genrikh Yagoda said. “Anybody can commit a murder, but a suicide requires a real professional.”
“Ron Brown’s body lies a’moldering in the grave, but his spirit goes marching on."


Anonymous said...

Travers may have his hearing before Congress, but does anyone REALLY think that he'll be confirmed?

Let the BATFE-ces be leaderless for awhile. They always have Holder & Obeyme to fall back on.

B Woodman