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Acting ATF Chief Faces Pressure to Resign over Botched Gun Operation

www[dot]ATF[dot]gov(WASHINGTON) -- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Acting Director Kenneth Melson is facing pressure to resign over a poorly run gun-trafficking operation blamed for putting weapons in the hands of a border agent's killers.

One of the three ATF agents who blew the whistle on the program, dubbed "Fast and Furious," told a congressional committee hearing last week that rather than shutting down the illegal gun trade to drug cartels, the operation helped arm them.

"ATF is supposed to be the sheepdog that protects against the wolves that prey upon our southern border," ATF Agent John Dodson said. "Rather than meet the wolf head-on, we sharpened its teeth and added number to its claws, all the while we sat idly by -- watching, tracking and noting as it became a more efficient killer."

Under "Fast and Furious," ATF agents recorded and tracked straw purchases of weapons and allowed the guns to "walk" across the U.S. border into Mexico in an effort to locate major weapons traffickers, rather than catching the low-level buyers.

The operation took a tragic toll when two weapons found on the scene where Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered were linked to the ATF program.

Melson has been acting director of ATF since April 2009.

Reports that Melson may be forced to resign were first reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal.

The ATF agents testified they had serious reservations about orders not to arrest known straw purchasers -- even though the guns were going to drug cartels -- and to stop monitoring individuals who had illegally purchased high-powered rifles including AK-47s and .50 caliber rifles. Heavily armed drug cartels have been blamed for the killings of more than 34,000 people in Mexico since 2006.

In November 2010, President Obama nominated Andrew Traver, the agent in charge of the ATF's Chicago office, to head the ATF, but the nomination has been held up in the Senate after the National Rifle Association spoke out against him.

The ATF has been without a confirmed director since 2006 due to political opposition and pressure from gun rights group.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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