The controversy over Operation Fast and Furious, a botched investigation into an Arizona gun-trafficking network, has led to a shakeup in the U.S. Justice Department.
The Obama administration has reassigned Kenneth E. Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to a lower-level position as a senior advisor in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy. In addition, the U.S. Attorney in Phoenix, Dennis K. Burke, has resigned.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, Operation Fast and Furious was launched under Melson’s leadership. In the investigation, ATF agents watched — and in some cases recorded on video — illegal gun sales and then used surveillance teams and electronic eavesdropping to follow the guns and learn how the weapons were moved. The goal was to arrest cartel leaders overseeing gun smuggling on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico.
The pursuit of the guns and cartel leaders soon hit a dead end and the ATF lost track of many of the weapons. Some later turned up at crime scenes in Mexico, and two were recovered at an Arizona site where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed. That prompted a continuing Congressional investigation into the operation.
As the Center for Public Integrity reports, 200 of the nearly 2,000 firearms bought by suspects during the 15-month operation were later recovered at crime scenes.