Issa leaks ATF emails

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee released copies of redacted emails on Wednesday that detail the involvement of the head of the nation's firearms law enforcement agency in a controversial gun-tracking program as early as March 2010.

The emails strike a stark contrast to letters the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have sent to lawmakers in which they denied selling assault weapons to known and suspected straw purchasers for drug cartels and claimed that they made every effort to prevent weapons from ending up in Mexico.

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In one of the emails, released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), with the subject heading “Director’s questions,” the supervisor of the “Fast and Furious” operation wrote to the assistant special agent in charge of Phoenix field operations with an Internet Protocol address for one of the video monitoring units in a gun store which was authorized to sell guns to the suspects.

The emails seem to indicate that ATF acting director Kenneth Melson had asked for this information.

“With this information, acting Director Melson was able to sit at his desk in Washington and – himself – watch a live feed of the straw buyers entering the gun stores to purchase dozens of AK-47 variants,” said a Republican committee statement.


Earlier this year, in response to a letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to Melson asking him about his knowledge of the gun-tracking operation, the Justice Department wrote the senator, denying knowingly selling assault weapons to straw purchasers and stating that it made every effort to prevent weapons from ending up in Mexico.

In another email dated March 10, 2010, the assistant special agent in charge of Phoenix field operations wrote to the supervisor of the “Fast and Furious” operation and said, “Not sure if you know, but Mr. Melson and Mr. Hoover are being briefed weekly on this investigation and the recent success with [redacted] so they are both keenly interested in case updates.”

The release of the emails come as Issa was holding a hearing on the gun-tracking program with ATF agents.