There are now enough Operation Fast and Furious officials playing hide-and-seek in the Obama administration to fill a "rubber room."
That's the nickname for taxpayer-subsidized holding pens, such as the ones in the New York City public schools, where crooked employees are separated from the system and paid to do nothing. Perhaps the White House can stimulate a few construction jobs by adding an entire rubber room annex for "reassigned" scandal bureaucrats at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It's getting mighty crowded.
On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced it was shuffling Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, out of his job. The disclosure comes amid continued GOP investigations into the administration's fatally botched straw gun purchase racket at the border and spreading outrage over legal obstructionism and whistleblower retaliation by DOJ brass. The DOJ inspector general is also conducting a probe.
Internal documents earlier showed that Melson was intimately involved in overseeing the program and screened undercover videos of thousands of straw purchases of AK-47s and other high-powered rifles — many of which ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel thugs, including those who murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December. Fast and Furious weapons have been tied to at least a dozen violent crimes in America and untold bloody havoc in Mexico.
In secret July 4 testimony, Melson revealed he was "sick to his stomach" when he discovered the extent of the operation's deadly lapses. Join the club, pal.
Melson told congressional investigators that he and ATF's senior leadership "moved to reassign every manager involved in Fast and Furious, from the deputy assistant director for field operations down to the group supervisor" after ATF whistleblowers went to the press and Capitol. But according to Melson, he and company were ordered by Justice Department higher-ups to remain silent about the reasons for the reassignments.
In other words: the ATF managers in the know were "effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand," as GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, concluded in July.
Melson has been kicked back to DOJ's main office in a flabbergasting new slot as "senior adviser on forensic science in the department's Office of Legal Policy." He may have been "sick to his stomach," but the federal careerist apparently has no intention of quitting an administration with blood on its hands. And now he'll be advising others on how to track and handle evidence. Nice make-work if you can get it.
Others on the Fast and Furious dance card of lemons:
— Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley in Phoenix, who helped oversee the straw gun purchase disaster. He's being transferred out of the U.S. Attorney's Office's criminal division and into the civil division.
— Assistant ATF Special Agents in Charge George Gillett and Jim Needles. Moved to other positions.
— BATF deputy director of operations in the West, William McMahon. Promoted to ATF headquarters.
— ATF Phoenix field supervisors William Newell and David Voth. Promoted to new management positions in Washington.
Keep your friends close and your henchmen on the verge of spilling all the beans closer.
There's been only one visible Fast and Furious resignation: U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix, who quietly stepped down on Tuesday. One of his last acts? Opposing the request of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's family to qualify as crime victims in a court case against the thug who bought the Fast and Furious guns used in Terry's murder.
The fish rots from the head down, of course. DOJ is run by Eric Holder, the Beltway swamp creature who won bipartisan approval for his nomination — even after putting political interests ahead of security interests at the Clinton Justice Department in both the Marc Rich pardon scandal and the Puerto Rican FALN terrorist debacle. Remember: Holder won over the Senate by arguing that his poor judgment made him more qualified for the job.
Screw up, move up, cover up: It's the Holder way, the Obama way, the Washington way. And innocent Americans pay.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.