Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious XXXII

Agent who supervised gun trafficking operation testifies on his failings

A federal agent who helped supervise the gun trafficking investigation known as Operation Fast and Furious told Congress on Tuesday that he had made mistakes during the effort to dismantle a network that was funneling assault weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

Read About It: The New York Times

U.S. officials kept their Mexican counterparts in the dark about a widely criticized gun trafficking probe even as rising numbers of weapons reached the hands of Mexico's drug cartels, a congressional committee reported Tuesday. The Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also held back key details about "Operation Fast and Furious" from agents based in Mexico City when they raised alarms, according to the report.

Read About It: CNN

BATFE accused in Congressional report of 'arming' cartel for 'war' through Operation Fast and Furious

The failed federal anti gunrunning program known as Operation Fast and Furious got so out of control in November 2009, it appeared the U.S. government was single handedly "arming for war" the Sinaloa Cartel, documents show, even as U.S. officials kept lying to fellow agents in Mexico about the volume of guns it helped send south of the border.

Read About It: Fox News

Gunwalker scandal called "perfect storm of idiocy"

In advance of a hearing later today, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a report containing new testimony and allegations in the ATF gunwalker case. According to the report, Carlos Canino, Acting ATF Attache in Mexico, calls the strategy his agency employed: "The perfect storm of idiocy."

Read About It: CBS News

ATF’s Phoenix SAC emailed Gunwalker info to National Security Council
by David Codrea
An exchange between House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee members and William Newell, former Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s Phoenix Field Division during this morning’s hearings  on Operation Fast and Furious pointed to key information that may be the most important to come out of today’s session.
Newell was asked about his relationship with Kevin O’Reilly, Director of North American Affairs of the National Security Council, and this was followed up shortly thereafter with his being questioned why he began one email correspondence with the words “You didn’t get these from me.” [UPDATE: A copy of this email is presented here.] Newell, who was chastised by multiple Committee members for being evasive, answered that he and O’Reilly were long-time friends, but he would admit no wrong-doing in why he wanted O’Reilly to keep his name secret as a source for disclosure about an investigation that allowed guns to “walk” to cartel criminals in Mexico.
The question becomes: Why is Newell’s communication with O’Reilly significant?
Rephrased: Why are ATF field office management communications about Fast and Furious with NSC’s North American Affairs Director significant?
"[Congressional investigators are] gradually building a case for a much wider, national conspiracy. By the end of this process, they'll be able to prove that orders came from the very top," Mike Vanderboegh of the Sipsey Street Irregulars blog told WorldNetDaily in a story filed yesterday.
Vanderboegh also gave his blog readers insights yesterday into why the Newell/O’Reilly nexus provides circumstantial evidence of highest-level cognizance:
The President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State are considered to be statutory attendees of NSC meetings, but they are also regularly joined by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Advisor, and other executive officials. The NSC conducts its meetings in the White House Situation Room, and the National Security Advisor’s presence in the West Wing provides the President with direct access to research, briefings, and intelligence related to all aspects of national security. During times of crisis, the National Security Advisor is also responsible for operating out of the Situation Room in order to provide the President and other members of the NSC with regular updates pertaining to the situation at hand.

What’s evident from today’s exchange is Issa’s committee has some degree of access to past Newell/O’Reilly email correspondence. How much is one question.  Where following up on what they have will lead—and how high up—is another, and the most important one of all.
Also see:
Note to newcomers to this story: “Project Gunrunner” is the name ATF assigned to its Southwest Border Initiative to interdict gun smuggling to Mexico. “Project Gunwalker” is the name I assigned to the scandal after allegations by agents that monitored guns were allowed to fall into criminal hands on both sides of the border through a surveillance process termed “walking” surfaced.

Transcript of Newell questioning related to NSC's O'Reilly by David Codrea

A transcript of today's House Oversight Committee on Government Reform hearing has been released that includes all questioning of former Phoenix Field Division Special Agent in Charge William Newell regarding his relationship with and emails to National Security Council Director of North American Affairs Kevin O'Reilly, reported in today's earlier Gun Rights Examiner column.
Related transcript sections are copied and pasted below. Initial questions are by Rep. Raul Labrador and Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa:
LABRADOR: Special Agent Newell, do you know who Kevin O'Reilly is?
NEWELL: Yes, Sir.
LABRADOR: What's the nature of your relationship with him?
NEWELL: I've known Kevin for ‑ I'd say probably 10‑12 years?
LABRADOR: How often do you communicate with him?
NEWELL: Oh, I haven't communicated with him in a while but probably three or four times a year or something like that. Or maybe ‑ maybe more depending on him reaching out to me.
LABRADOR: Isn't it a little bit unusual for a special agent in charge of an ATF field division to have direct email contact with the national security staff at the White House?
NEWELL: He's ‑ he's a friend of mine.
LABRADOR: How many times did you talk to him about this case?
NEWELL: The specifics of this case? I don't think I ‑‑ I mean ‑‑ I don't think I had one specific conversation with him about the specifics of this case.
ISSA (?): Would the gentleman allow me to help him a little? Not that you need it, but could you take the word specific out and ‑ and answer the general ‑‑ did you talk to him about this case?
NEWELL: I might have talked to him about this case. Yes, Sir.
ISSA(?): Do you know when that was?
NEWELL: It was probably ‑‑ I ‑‑ as I recall I think it was during the summer ‑‑ it might have been the summer or early fall of 2010.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy picked up the O'Reilly connection to press for more information:
GOWDY: Let me ask you this. When you begin a sentence, "You didn't get this from me..." what does that mean to you?
NEWELL: Just means that didn't get it from me.
GOWDY: Well, but that's kind of a pleonasm, isn't it, because you are getting it from them? So it's a ‑‑ what do you mean by that, "You didn't get this from me..."? I'm referring to your e‑mail to Mr. O'Reilly (ph).
NEWELL: Well, obviously Mr. O'Reilly (ph) was a friend of mine and it's ‑‑ it's ‑‑ I shouldn't have been sending him that, obviously, I recognize that, it being a friend.
GOWDY: But what do you mean, "You didn't get this from me..."? Does that mean you should not have been talking to him about it?
NEWELL: Not that I shouldn't have been talking about. He's a friend of mine. He asked for information and I provided it to him.
GOWDY: Well, then, why wasn't it appropriate for you to give it to him? Why would you preface it by saying, "You didn't get this from me..."? Was it an improper communication?
NEWELL: No, it wasn't an improper communication.
GOWDY: Well, then, why would you preface it by that?
NEWELL: It's ‑‑ he's been a friend of mine for a long time and he asked me for information. So I gave him information that ‑‑ it's probably an improper use of the term or phrase.

ATF Manager says he shared Fast and Furious Info with White House

by Sheryl Attkisson

At a lengthy hearing on ATF's controversial gunwalking operation today, a key ATF manager told Congress he discussed the case with a White House National Security staffer as early as September 2010. The communications were between ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office, Bill Newell, and White House National Security Director for North America Kevin O'Reilly. Newell said the two are longtime friends. The content of what Newell shared with O'Reilly is unclear and wasn't fully explored at the hearing.
It's the first time anyone has publicly stated that a White House official had any familiarity with ATF's operation Fast and Furious, which allowed thousands of weapons to fall into the hands of suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to gain intelligence. It's unknown as to whether O'Reilly shared information with anybody else at the White House.
Congressional investigators obtained an email from Newell to O'Reilly in September of last year in which Newell began with the words: "you didn't get this from me."
"What does that mean," one member of Congress asked Newell, " 'you didn't get this from me?' "
"Obviously he was a friend of mine," Newell replied, "and I shouldn't have been sending that to him."
Newell told Congress that O'Reilly had asked him for information.
"Why do you think he asked for that information," Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked Newell.
"He was asking about the impact of Project Gunrunner to brief people in preparation for a trip to Mexico... what we were doing to combat firearms trafficking and other issues."
Today, a White House spokesman said the email was not about Fast and Furious, but about other gun trafficking efforts. The spokesman also said he didn't know what Newell was referring to when he said he'd spoken to O'Reilly about Fast and Furious.
President Obama has said neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder authorized or knew about the operation. Holder has asked the Inspector General to investigate.

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