Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says those responsible for the “Operation Fast and Furious” gunrunning scandal are much “higher up” in government than those who took the flak for the debacle. The California Republican also told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Tuesday a similar event can never happen again.
“It certainly goes much higher than the three individuals who were transferred or dismissed today — and more importantly, those higher up have not yet said how they are going to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Issa said.”And Greta, it’s that second part that I think the American people have to be concerned with — bad things happen, but they shouldn’t happen twice — right now we are afraid this same sort of a failed program could go on again.”
On Tuesday, Kenneth Melson, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was reassigned. Melson has been central to a congressional investigation of the Fast and Furious program and Project Gunrunner.
In addition, Phoenix U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who worked with the ATF on the operation, resigned; Emory Hurley, an assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix who helped oversee Fast and Furious, is being moved out of the criminal division to the civil division.
Under the programs designed to track illegal gun purchases, about 1,400 weapons were sold to straw buyers and funneled to drug cartels. The weapons were used in crimes, including the yet-unsolved murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
“Brian Terry's family — his mother, his siblings — they’ve never gotten a fair recognition of who is responsible,” Issa said. “There are people who were part of the chain of those weapons that ultimately killed Brian Terry who have not been charged with any crime of this magnitude.
“I think reassignment from a position in which [Melson] was at least partially responsible is probably appropriate — at the same time he’s cooperated, he’s been helpful — and I’ll never forget when he said specifically about when he began seeing certain information that was withheld from AFT, including him, that had he known that he wouldn’t have allowed it, and he was sick to his stomach when he read it — then he began trying to get this program shutdown.”
Van Susteren asked whether the ATF changes put an end to the investigation.
“Greta, there’s two things we have to do to wrap up this investigation: First of all, we have to get to those responsible — which means we need the cooperation and discovery we haven’t been getting.” Issa said. “Almost everything we have and almost everything Senator [Charles] Grassley has we have gotten from third parties who have given it to us at great risk.
“We’ve issued lawful subpoenas, and they have [been] thwarted at best, often giving us information that is so redacted it is just black pieces of paper that used to be white before they put lines through it,” he said. “We have information given by third parties then redacted when the administration gave us their version — we know we are being gamed and we think the time for the game should be up.”
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