'Fast and Furious' Agents Get Promoted

Thursday, 25 Aug 2011 07:44 PM

By Chris W. Cox

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In federal bureaucracy, promoted men don’t talk, and nowhere is there a more glaring example than the recent promotions of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and explosives (ATF) agents behind the "Fast and Furious" arms scandal.

As the Los Angeles Times reported last week, ATF field officers William Newell and David Voth, as well as the agency’s deputy director of operations in the West, William McMahon, were all given new management positions at ATF headquarters in Washington, D.C.

All three were directly in charge of the now infamous “Fast and Furious” debacle, in which the bureau facilitated the illegal transfer of thousands of guns to violent drug lords in Mexico. These guns were later discovered at multiple murder scenes, including that of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

These agents hid their dirty dealings from the Mexican president and the Mexican police. They hid them from America’s ambassador to Mexico. And, according to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the agents hid everything from them, too.

For all their troubles, Voth is now a branch chief for the ATF’s tobacco division; Newell is now special assistant to the assistant director of the agency’s Office of Management; and McMahon is now the deputy assistant director of the Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations, which, and I’m not making this up, is the division within the ATF that investigates employee misconduct.

The public outcry over these controversial promotions has forced the ATF into full spin mode. The agency claims that these were all simply “lateral” transfers that didn’t involve more pay or responsibility.

Don’t dare call them “promotions,” warns the agency, and don't read too much into ATF Director Kenneth Melson’s agency-wide email that announced McMahon’s new position and commended him for the “skills and abilities” he has demonstrated throughout his career. That’s just lateral transfer talk!
Image of ATF chief Kenneth Melson, after promoting "Fast and Furious" Newell and Voth.
ATF's Kenneth Melson

ATF officials can call it whatever they want. But when federal employees — whose salaries are paid by taxpayers — violate the trust of the American people by engaging in an illegal activity that may have resulted in murder, they ought to be fired. At a minimum, they ought to be demoted and reprimanded. And they certainly should be forced to come clean with all documentation and information that Congress has requested regarding their illegal activity.

In Washington, D.C., however, and clearly in the Obama administration, the culture of corruption rewards those who are willing to cover up and keep quiet.

Chris W. Cox is the executive director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action and serves as the organization’s chief lobbyist.

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