In addition to allegations that the DOJ participated in attempting to smear and fire ATF whistleblowers, the Department stands accused of trying to stonewall congressional oversight investigations into Operation Fast and Furious — first by stopping Acting ATF Director Ken Melson from testifying at a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about what he knew of the operation:
The Justice Department blocked senior ATF leaders from cooperating with Congress in its investigation of the “Fast and Furious” weapons operation, ordering them not to respond to questions and taking full control of replying to briefing and document requests, the agency’s top boss told congressional investigators.
Kenneth E. Melson, the embattled acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told Senate Judiciary Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigators during a secret interview designed to circumvent Justice Department attorneys that he was “sick to his stomach” when he learned about problems with the controversial operation.
Melson was eventually told by Congressman Darrell Issa’s office that he did not have to testify with DOJ attorneys present. Once he was “free” of DOJ lawyers, he gave direct testimony to congressional investigators with only his own private lawyer present and without DOJ minders, much to the dismay of his superiors.
To date, not all of Melson’s testimony has been released — it is apparently being withheld in a game of high stakes brinkmanship as Issa and Grassley face down a recalcitrant administration.
Acting DOJ Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar would be wise to keep the results of her investigations into the alleged Dodson leak, Fast and Furious, and any other gunrunning investigations that may develop for as long as is practically possible. As Gerald Walpin discovered the hard way, the Obama administration isn’t kind to inspector generals that are determined to do their jobs.