Rep. Issa counters anonymous critics

ATF logo over US Republican Representative Darrell Issa
ATF logo over US Republican Representative Darrell Issa CBS/TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

A chief critic of ATF's gunwalking operation was reportedly briefed on the program last year --- but didn't object. That's according to unnamed sources speaking to the Washington Post about the classified briefing. The sources said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was given "highly specific information" in an April 2010 briefing, attended by members of Congress from both parties.

The operation called "Fast and Furious" is now under fire by Issa and others for allegedly allowing thousands of assault rifles and other weapons to get into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. CBS News first broke the story in February. "All of the things [Issa] has been screaming about, he was briefed on,'' said one anonymous source to the Washington Post.

Today, a spokesman for Issa said that unlike the Post's sources, Issa will not discuss the classified briefing except to say he was not briefed or told about gunwalking by ATF agents until after the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Terry was gunned down near the Arizona-Mexico border last December. Two guns that ATF allegedly let "walk" were found at the murder scene.

"(O)pponents of this investigation are incredulously trying to assert that Obama Administration political appointees at the Justice Department were ignorant - yet Congress was in the know on the details of Operation Fast and Furious," said Issa in a statement.

Related: Rep. Issa wants answers from ATF on "gunwalking"

Today's public relations attack against Issa comes as sources tell CBS News ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson is coming under increasing pressure to resign over the scandal. Internal emails obtained by CBS News indicate Melson was deeply involved in the controversial ATF operation run out of the Phoenix office.

Despite rampant speculation, Melson hasn't resigned. Today, he hosted ATF's first annual Gay Pride observance. Melson told ATF employees "Our role is to do our best to welcome the many so that we can work as one."

The keynote speaker at the event, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MASS) didn't mention or defend Fast and Furious, but said he wanted to begin his speech "by apologizing to you here at the ATF for the fact that you do a very difficult job that's very important for the safety of our nation and your reward is unfair criticism."

The Justice Department's Inspector General is investigating the Fast and Furious controversy.

Last night on Comedy Central's The Daily Show Jon Stewart featured the ATF gunwalker investigation in a segment called: "The Fast and the Furious - Mexico Grift"

  • Sharyl Attkisson
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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.