In response to questioning by members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during this week's hearing on the growing scandal of Operation Fast and Furious
, Special Agent John Dodson, assigned to the Phoenix Field Division of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives voiced his concern over having the Justice Department's Inspector General lead the investigation.
The House committee hearings included testimony from four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) agents who offered firsthand accounts about the controversial Operation Fast and Furious that allowed suspects to walk away with illegally purchased guns and enter Mexico. Two of the approximately 2,000 guns that ATF let criminals walk away with were found at the murder scene of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
“ATF agents have shared chilling accounts of being ordered to stand down as criminals in Arizona walked away with guns headed for Mexican drug cartels,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the committee.
“With the clinical precision of a lab experiment, the Justice Department kept records of weapons they let walk and the crime scenes where they next appeared. To agents’ shock, preventing loss of life was not the primary concern,” Issa stated.
During S.A. Dodson's testimony, he stated, "I can see a conflict between the Office of the OIG [Office of Department of Justice Inspector General], yes sir, the actual individuals that are working the case, my interaction with them since I've been interviewed by them, is that I think they get it."
"However those two offices being who they are and how they are aligned, there's inherently a conflict of interest. If in fact someone at DOJ authorized this, knows about it, is as well versed as everyone at ATF – that thereby creates the conflict with OIG," he stressed during his testimony.
The Department of Justice and Minority Members of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee have cited the IG probe in defending efforts to obstruct the Oversight Committee's investigation into gunwalking by the Department of Justice.
"The Obama White House, the Attorney General and Democrats in general want this investigation to just go away and never be resolved for obvious reasons," said former law enforcement
commander Sid Franes.
"If the Democrats still controlled the House of Representatives, this investigation would have been shutdown immediately. I'd bet the farm on that one," said Franes.
In addition to the testimony of four ATF special agents, Rep. Issa released three e-mails detailing the intimate involvement of ATF's Acting Director Kenneth Melson and Acting Deputy Director Bill Hoover in Operation Fast and Furious:
• The first e-mail from March 10, 2010, to Operation Fast and Furious Group VII Leader David Voth indicates that the two most senior leaders in ATF, Acting Director Kenneth Melson, and Deputy Director Billy Hoover, were "being briefed weekly on" Operation Fast and Furious. The document shows that both Melson and Hoover were "keenly interested in case updates."
• A second e-mail from March 12, 2010, shows that Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon was so excited about Fast and Furious that he received a special briefing on the program in Phoenix - scheduled for a mere 45 minutes after his plane landed.
• A third - and perhaps the most disturbing – e-mail from April 12, 2010, indicates that Acting Director Melson was very much in the weeds with Operation Fast and Furious. After a detailed briefing of the program by the ATF Phoenix Field Division, Acting Director Melson had a plethora of follow-up questions that required additional research to answer. As the document indicates, Mr. Melson was interested in the IP Address for hidden cameras located inside cooperating gun shops. 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.