- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The new acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, whose former leadership has been criticized or reassigned over the “Fast and Furious” operation, announced key staff changes Wednesday aimed at “refocusing the bureaus direction on its core mission.”

“I have assembled a team to move ATF forward in its mission to fight violent crime and protect the American people, and to ensure that an experienced and strong staff is in place to implement that mission,” said ATF acting Director B. Todd Jones, who was named to the post Aug. 30 and will hold it until a permanent director nominated last November is confirmed.

Mr. Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minnesota, acknowledged that the bureau is facing difficult times in the wake of the Fast and Furious operation, during which more than 2,000 weapons were “walked” to drug smugglers in Mexico.

Meantime, the White House has brushed aside the call for a special counsel to investigate whether Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. misled Congress about his knowledge of Fast and Furious.

The Justice Department also issued a statement defending Mr. Holder.

“The attorney generals testimony to both the House and the Senate was consistent and truthful,” the statement said, adding that Mr. Holder became aware of questionable tactics employed in the Fast and Furious operation in early 2011 when ATF agents first raised them publicly, and at the time, he asked the Inspector Generals Office to investigate the matter.

The leadership changes follow the reassignment of several other ATF officials over concerns raised about Fast and Furious. Mr. Jones said that while the changes are geared to refocusing ATF under a new acting director, additional staff reassignments may occur at the end of the OIG inquiry.

Among the new assignments: Thomas Brandon, who was special agent in charge of the Phoenix field division, will be deputy director; W. Larry Ford, assistant director of the Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information, will be assistant director of the Office of Field Operations; and Gregory Gant, deputy assistant director of the Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, will be assistant director of that office.

Also, James McDermond will serve as assistant director of the Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information; Julie Torres will be the assistant director of the Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations; Theresa Stoop will be the assistant director of the Office of Human Resources and Professional Development; Mark Potter will be the assistant director of the Office of Management; William Hoover will be special agent in charge of the Washington field division; Mark Chait will be special agent in charge of the Baltimore field division; Vivian Michalic will be deputy assistant director of the Office of Management; and Melanie Stinnett will be deputy chief counsel.