Kenneth Melson, then-head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), blasted subordinates in a deposition taken in July claiming they failed to inform him of a controversial gun-tracking program that may have led to the death of a Border Patrol agent.
Melson criticized his chief intelligence officer and subordinates for not advising him on details of the Fast and Furious program, which allowed sales of guns to straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels, reports the Los Angeles Times, which obtained the confidential deposition with congressional investigators.
Melson also claimed that after lawmakers learned about the program, Justice Department officials objected when he moved to disclose all information about the operation to Congress.
Melson says he was told that “it is a long-standing policy of the Department of Justice that we don't talk about ongoing cases.”
His replacement, Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones, fired back, claiming that Melson did not properly supervise agents and allowed them to adopt controversial tactics in an interview with the newspaper.
"Anybody, including Mr. Melson, who waits for things to happen or waits for information to come to them, that is something I personally am not a believer in" said Jones according to the Times.
"I'm a believer in management by walking around. If you're not hearing it, you seek it out. And there are a lot of ways to do that other than sitting in your corner office waiting for memos to come in."
Melson was removed from the ATF in August and transferred within the Justice Department to the Office of Legal Policy, where he is a senior adviser.
The botched gun-tracking operation has led to a firestorm of criticism for the DOJ centered on Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderAll eyes on Garland after Bannon contempt vote Arkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats Oregon legislature on the brink as Democrats push gerrymandered maps MORE and other top Justice officials. Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill Another voice of reason retires Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter MORE (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have led investigations and have called for those responsible for the program to be held accountable.
Some Republican lawmakers have called for Holder's resignation over claims that he misled the House Judiciary Committee as to when he first learned about Fast and Furious.
Holder, who launched an inspector general investigation, has said that the program was "flawed in concept, as well as in execution ... and it must never happen again." He has pledged to hold officials responsible. Holder says learned about the operation after news reports on whistleblowers concerned about the mission first surfaced.