The investigation into a controversial U.S. gun-trafficking investigation took an unexpected turn when the ATF head met secretly with congressional aides and conceded that his agency made mistakes in directing Operation Fast and Furious, reports the Washington Post. Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, had been scheduled to speak to congressional investigators next week, in the presence of Justice Department and ATF lawyers. Instead, he brought his own attorney and was interviewed twice over the Fourth of July weekend.
Melson's decision, which took ATF and Justice Department officials by surprise, was the latest fallout from the Fast and Furious sting. That now-defunct operation targeted Mexican gun traffickers, but it has been linked to the killing of a Border Patrol officer. Congressional Republicans have criticized ATF over the operation and are pushing to learn whether senior Justice Department officials were involved. The ATF chief said he moved to reassign managers involved in Fast and Furious and became “sick to his stomach” upon learning “the full story” of the operation, said a letter sent Tuesday to Holder by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Ia). Issa and Grassley said Melson said that he and other ATF officials wanted to cooperate more with Congress but that the Justice Department, which oversees the agency, prevented that.