Trouble for Holder: ATF Director Eager to Testify About Operation Fast and Furious

Katie Pavlich

6/24/2011 9:58:00 AM - Katie Pavlich

ATF Director Kenneth Melson, who was heavily involved in Operation Fast and Furious, doesn't look like he's willing to fall on his sword for Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama just yet. In fact, Melson is ready to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee where Rep. Darrell Issa will ask him who above him ordered the operation within the Justice Department. Eric Holder should be very, very worried.

Rumors have been swirling around Washington all week that Melson would resign, yet it is now Friday and no resignation has been made.

The acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is strongly resisting pressure to step down because of growing controversy over the agency's surveillance program that allowed U.S. guns to flow unchecked into Mexico, according to several federal sources in Washington.

Kenneth E. Melson, who has run the bureau for two years, is reportedly eager to testify to Congress about the extent of his and other officials' involvement in the operation, code-named Fast and Furious.

Melson does not want to be "the fall guy" for the program, under which ATF agents allowed straw purchasers to acquire more than 1,700 AK-47s and other high-powered rifles from Arizona gun dealers, the sources said. The idea was to track the guns to drug cartel leaders. But that goal proved elusive, and the guns turned up at shootings in Mexico, as well as at the slaying in Arizona of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in December.

"He is saying he won't go," said one source close to the situation, who asked for anonymity because high-level discussions with Melson remained fluid. "He has told them, 'I'm not going to be the fall guy on this.' "

Not surprisingly, the Justice Department is stonewalling his testimony.

Melson has an open invitation to appear on Capitol Hill. So far, he has not been given Justice Department approval to appear before Congress.

Between the Obama Justice Department submitting 900 pages of black, redacted material to Rep. Issa and now the DOJ stalling to give Melson permission to testify, there is no question the authorization of Operation Fast and Furious goes much higher up in the department than Holder wants us to know about.