Rep. Issa calls ATF nomination ‘slap in the face’ to family of slain agent

The House’s chief Republican watchdog on Friday condemned President Obama’s nomination of Todd Jones as permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, citing his handling the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal that has plagued the agency.

Jones took the helm of the agency as acting director in the midst of fallout from Operation Fast and Furious, a botched ATF gun-trafficking program through which federal authorities lost track of as many as 2,000 firearms. Some of the weapons wound up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, and two AK-47 rifles linked to the operation were found at the scene of the 2010 slaying of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in Arizona.

{mosads}House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who has hounded the agency over Fast and Furious for months, questioned Jones’s leadership. 

“Because of the numerous ATF mistakes during his tenure as Acting Director pertaining to Fast and Furious, his nomination is a slap in the face to the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Mexican citizens whose murder has been linked to Fast and Furious weapons, and ATF whistleblowers whom he failed to support,” said Issa (R-Ca.).

{mosads}During Jones’s tenure as acting director, individuals linked to “reckless tactics” at ATF were allowed to remain with the agency, Issa said. He accused Jones of creating an atmosphere unfriendly to whistleblowers and chided him for refusing to speak with congressional investigators.

Jones, however, is scarcely mentioned in two voluminous reports about Fast and Furious that Issa’s panel has issued. His name appears just once in the reports, which total more than 300 pages.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill noted that those reports focused on the Fast and Fuirious Operation itself and the early stages of the scandal preceding Jones’s appointment as acting director. A third report looking at the Just Department and ATF responses to the scandal is forthcoming.

Obama’s nomination of Jones was among 23 executive actions announced Wednesday as part of the president’s plan to curtail gun violence throughout the country.

The agency has been without a permanent director since 2006, when Congress began requiring Senate confirmation for the position.

Issa has urged the upper chamber to allow confirmation proceedings for an ATF director in the past, but Senate Republicans have prevented any such vote.

“While I continue to believe that ATF needs to have a Senate confirmed Director, President Obama has a responsibility to find a nominee who can win confirmation and is not saddled by a string of bad decisions related to the agency’s greatest recent failure,” he said.


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