Issa calls on ATF director to resign

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday called on the acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Kenneth Melson, to resign for the role he played in overseeing a controversial gun-tracking program. 

Issa said he plans to continue his investigation into the “Fast and Furious” operation even if Melson steps down, because officials with the Justice Department need to be held accountable for their roles.

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“He should [resign],” said Issa of Melson in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday. 

“He was part of the bad judgment. And when I say bad judgment, it wasn’t just him. They had to go to Justice to get money, to get FBI agents, all of the other people that helped coordinate this, and to get the wiretaps they used. This was a program so stupid from the start.”

“With Melson leaving the top of the ATF, he’s being held accountable, but nobody’s being held accountable at the U.S. Attorney’s office or at Justice. That has to change.”

Issa has made the fight over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) operation “Fast and Furious” his first big battle with the Obama administration since taking over as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which held a hearing on the issue last week.

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Issa has tried for the past three months — through subpoenas and interviews — to find out who authorized the program, which oversaw the sale of weapons to known and suspected straw purchasers for drug cartels without established plans to intercept the guns before they could be used in a crime. In December, two of the guns were found at the Arizona crime scene where ATF Agent Brian Terry was killed. 

Both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have said that they did not know about the operation before the issue became public earlier this year. But Issa said that is unacceptable. 

“I believe [Holder] should have known,” said Issa. “I believe it was his obligation to know. The fact that there was a 'don’t ask, don’t tell' policy at Eric Holder’s office is to say really he wasn’t doing his job if he didn’t know.”

Issa released a series of three emails to the press during last week’s hearing that imply Melson has known of the operation since March of 2010. 

In one of the emails, under 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 authorized to sell guns to the suspects.

“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.

News reports have speculated that Melson might be readying his resignation sometime this week.