Gunwalker: Why is the White House “hiding” a key witness?

April 10, 2012

In an article last July about possible White House knowledge of Operation Fast and Furious, I quoted the following from a CBS report:

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.

Now, however, the White House is blocking access to O’Reilly, hiding him behind claims of “executive privilege:”

White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler sent a letter Thursday to Republican lawmakers Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley, refusing their request to speak with Kevin O’Reilly, a former National Security staff member whose emails place him in the middle of the unfolding scandal. Issa and Grassley had written to Ruemmler on March 28, asking the White House to step aside and let O’Reilly talk to investigators.

Grassley is the GOP ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose members include Chaffetz.

“[O’Reilly’s] personal attorney indicated that he’s more than willing to talk to the committee, on the record, under oath”” [Rep. Jake] Chaffetz told Kelly during her Friday afternoon broadcast. “It is only the White House and the White House Counsel that is saying they will not make him available.”

(…)

Ruemmler also cited executive privilege and confidentiality as reasons for denying the lawmakers’ request.

Anyone who remembers the Nixon administration is probably having flashbacks right now at the mention of executive privilege. Not that it doesn’t have its place –it’s necessary in order to let aides feel comfortable offering the president their best, most candid advice without fear of a congressional witch-hunt– but it has also been abused to hide embarrassing or even scandalous facts.

The request to speak with O’Reilly resulted from requests and subpoenas demanding all communications between O’Reilly and his friend, Bill Newell. Ruemmler claims the White House has turned over everything it has, while Chaffetz says the emails were never delivered — in spite of the legally binding subpoena.

Hence the desire to speak to Mr. O’Reilly, who is himself willing to talk, if only the Obama White House would let him.

Ask yourself this: If there really is no scandal; if, as Ruemmler claims, the House and Senate investigators have all the documents they need; if O’Reilly has no damaging information to reveal… then why won’t they let him testify? What are they hiding? What are they afraid of?

Executive privilege won’t cut it; we’re not talking about confidential advice offered by a subordinate to the president or a cabinet member. O’Reilly was involved in communications about a program that, probably illegally, provided guns (and other weapons) to vicious criminal gangs in Mexico, arguably an act of war. Over 300 Mexicans and at least one, perhaps two, US federal agents have been killed with these weapons. “Walked” firearms are showing up at crime scenes in the United States. Executive privilege doesn’t cover being an accessory to murder.

Congress has every right under its oversight function to interview O’Reilly to hear what he has to say about Operation Fast and Furious, and the White House should drop its risible claims of privilege. If they don’t, it’s time for contempt proceedings.

The dead and their families are owed no less.

LINKS: More at American Thinker and Hot Air.

RELATED: Earlier posts on Operation Fast and Furious, aka “Gunwalker.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Fast and Furious: the targeted cartel heads were our informants

February 10, 2012

Great. Just great. As they say on Twitter, #EpicFail :

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has acknowledged that guns were allowed into the hands of Mexican criminals for more than a year in the hope of catching “big fish.”

The memorandum from staffers with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform says the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration were investigating a drug-trafficking organization and had identified cartel associates a year before the ATF even learned who they were. At some point before the ATF’s Fast and Furious investigation progressed — congressional investigators don’t know when — the cartel members became FBI informants.

“These were the ‘big fish,'” says the memo, written on behalf of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “DEA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had jointly opened a separate investigation targeting these two cartel associates….Yet, ATF spent the next year engaging in the reckless tactics of Fast and Furious in attempting to identify them.”

According to Issa and Grassley, the cartel suspects, whose names were not released, were regarded by FBI as “national-security assets.” One pleaded guilty to a minor offense. The other was not charged. “Both became FBI informants and are now considered unindictable,” the memo says. “This means that the entire goal of Fast and Furious — to target these two individuals and bring them to justice — was a failure.”

Representatives with the Justice Department and its subagencies declined to comment.

In other words, not only did the right hand not know what the left hand was doing, but all the fingers on the same hand were blithering idiots. In sum, one sub-agency of the US Department of Justice was supplying untraceable guns to murderous cartels to catch drug lords working as informants for another sub-agency of the US Department of Justice.

And all it cost was the life of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, possibly that of ICE Agent Jaime Zapata, and over 300 Mexican nationals.

I can understand why DoJ representatives declined to make a statement. They probably wanted to consult with their defense attorneys, first.

Read the rest at Bob Owens’ personal blog.

RELATED: Earlier Gunwalker posts.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Three questions on Operation Fast and Furious

February 7, 2012

There’s a great article today by Bob Owens at Pajamas Media. Here’s an excerpt:

Whether Operation Fast and Furious was a legitimate law enforcement operation, as the Department of Justice claims, or was part of a plot to impose gun control, it was radically different from all other border gun operations in one crucial way. Operation Fast and Furious was the only border gun operation that was undertaken with the full intention of the straw-purchased guns leaving the control of law enforcement officers and reaching the armories of drug cartel murderers. That fact alone should lead to the impeachment or administrative removal of everyone, from field agents to political appointees and elected officials that knew or should have known about the plot.

But that is only half of the horror story.

Operation Fast and Furious was specifically conceived so that “walked” guns would be recovered at crime scenes in Mexico. Their serial numbers would be provided to the ATF by Mexican authorities for tracing. Regardless of motive, the entire operation was premised on weapons being recovered at crime scenes in Mexico, and law enforcement agencies are well aware that criminals primarily abandon weapons only after they’ve been used in serious felony crimes such as murder or attempted murder.

Operation Fast and Furious was conceived knowing that Mexican nationals would be sacrificed in significant numbers if the tracing operation had any chance of working.

Operation Fast and Furious allowed more than 2,000 weapons to “walk,” indicating that those in charge of the operation were willing to let thousands of Mexican nationals die in an effort to identify the ringleaders of a cartel’s weapon acquisition team.

The Department of Justice claims that they did this so that they could trace the weapons to higher-ups in the cartels and take down entire gun-smuggling networks. Decent people can disagree on many aspects of crime fighting and the amount of risk we should be willing to absorb to fight crime, but we should all agree that no criminal network is worth sacrificing the lives of hundreds or thousands of victims.  Yet that is precisely the way Operation Fast and Furious was designed to work.

Bob then follows up with three questions and explorations of their implications. Read the whole thing.

These are the kinds of questions the press should be asking of the administration. But, just as importantly, these are the kinds of questions we should be peppering our congresscritters and senators with every day, letting them know we want them asked, we want answers, and we will hold them to account for not asking.

RELATED: Previous posts on Operation Fast and Furious, aka “Gunwalker.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Did AG Holder know about Fast and Furious long before he claimed to have known?

January 29, 2012

I know, I know. The idea that Attorney General Eric Holder, that paragon of the Rule of Law, might have lied to the House Oversight Committee when he claimed he had heard of Operation Fast and Furious “only a few weeks” before his testimony last May is hard to accept. Inconceivable, in fact.

Except that’s not what the latest Friday-night dump of emails seems to say:

Also among the documents are Justice Department emails involving a former top aide to Attorney General Eric Holder. The emails show that then-deputy chief of staff Monty Wilkinson was notified by then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke the day after [Border Patrol Agent Brian] Terry was slain that guns found at the murder scene were connected to an investigation that Burke and Wilkinson had planned to discuss. The emails did not identify the investigation, but it was Operation Fast and Furious.

(Emphases added)

Keep this in mind: Wilkinson was Holder’s deputy chief of staff and, while the name “Fast and Furious” wasn’t used, it’s not credible that he didn’t know that was the investigation Burke was referring to. The mention in the email indicates a reference to an earlier conversation or conversations.

What’s even more unbelievable is that Wilkinson, having received news of the death of a federal agent by criminals using weapons they obtained as part of this “investigation” wouldn’t tell his boss, the chief of staff, and that neither of them would tell their “boss of bosses.”

Attorney General Eric Holder.

So, to ask of Mr. Holder the famous question from Watergate — What did he know and when did he know it? — we now have a pretty good idea.

He likely knew everything and he knew it at the latest the day after Brian Terry was murdered.

Months before he claimed in his testimony.

So either the Attorney General of the United States either lied under oath to the committee, or his memory is so bad regarding important DoJ events that he is incompetent to serve in his office.

Regardless (and my bet is on “liar”), Eric Holder is unfit to be US Attorney General and must go.

LINKS. More at Hot Air. Earlier Gunwalker posts.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


It’s about time: Arizona to launch investigation of Operation Fast and Furious

January 23, 2012

It’s bad enough when states have to act to enforce federal law that Washington itself refuses to enforce, as did Arizona and other states when they passed tough anti-illegal immigration laws. But what is a state or local government supposed to do when the federal government is not just refusing to enforce the law, but may itself be one of the lawbreakers?

Answer: Start your own investigation.

Arizona’s state legislature will open its own investigation into the Obama administration’s disgraced gun-running program, known as “Fast and Furious,” the speaker of the state House said Friday.

Speaker Andy Tobin created the committee, and charged it with looking at whether the program broke any state laws — raising the possibility of state penalties against those responsible for the operation.

(…)

Mr. Tobin will announce the committee’s jurisdiction at a press conference in Phoenix on Monday. The committee is charged with looking into the facts about the program, what impact it had on Arizona and whether any of the state’s laws were broken.

A report is due back by March 30.

To recap, Operation Fast and Furious (aka “Gunwalker”) was a program that fed thousands of heavy-duty firearms to Mexican drug cartels, without the knowledge of the Mexican government. Guns were purchased by “straw buyers” who were allowed to walk the firearms over the border into Mexico. The originator of this scheme was the United States Department of Justice, which, through its subordinate law-enforcement agencies, pressured legitimate gun dealers in Arizona to sell these weapons knowing that these sales were likely violations of federal statutes and regulations.

The ostensible purpose was to trace these weapons back to their cartel users, though how that was supposed to work given that the weapons were untraceable until they showed up at Mexican and US crime scenes is unknown.

What is known, however, is that over 300 Mexican military, federal agents, police officers, and civilians are dead from weapons obtained via Gunwalker. In addition, at least one and maybe two US federal officers also were killed with “walked” guns. And the Department of Justice is stonewalling congressional investigating committees, to the extent that –and it appalls me to have to write this– a high-ranking DOJ official is now “pleading the Fifth.” (1)

So, having had enough, the State of Arizona is launching its own inquiry, with the possibility of criminal action down the road.

I wish our neighbors to the East good hunting.

via Big Government

RELATED: Hot Air has news video on the Arizona investigation. See these earlier Gunwalker posts for background links.

Footnote:
(1) Probably because he wants a deal and refuses to be the fall guy. Rats and sinking ships, and all that.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Eric Holder is a funny man

December 30, 2011

So funny, in fact, it makes you wish you could smack him across his sanctimonious, hypocritical mouth:

The number of officers killed in the line of duty jumped 13 percent in 2011 compared with the year before — and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder condemned the increase as “a devastating and unacceptable trend” that he blamed on illegal firearms.

The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty rose to 173 this year, from 153 in 2010, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund announced Wednesday. This year’s figure is 23 percent higher than 122 killed in the line of duty in 2009.

Holder said “too many guns have fallen into the hands of those who are not legally permitted to possess them,” in explaining the increase.

Four words for you, Mr. Attorney-General: Operation Fast and Furious (1). It takes a special kind of brass to stand there po-faced before the press and cluck your tongue about the number of officers killed by illegal weapons, considering agencies under your supervision supplied thousands of firearms (and even grenades?) to Mexican drug cartels, even laundering money for them.

Let’s forget for a moment the over 200 Mexican civilians, soldiers, and federal agents killed by weapons supplied by Operation Fast and Furious (aka “Gunwalker”). After all, no one cares about dead Mexicans, do they?

But let’s talk about cops, law-enforcement officers, since you’re so obviously concerned about their safety. Persons such as Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, gunned down by smugglers in Arizona in late 2010: two weapons found at the scene were linked to Gunwalker, while a possible third “walked” firearm, which may have fired the killing shots, has gone missing.

And that makes this ending to the Politico piece so… special:

For much of the past year, one fatality in particular has weighed heavily on Holder’s mind, that of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whose December 2010 murder sparked interest and public investigations into the Justice Department’s botched Fast and Furious gun-walking program.

Yeah, I bet it weighs heavily on his mind — as a reminder of his moral or even criminal guilt and his incompetence.

But, it not just one Border Patrol officer on some lonely stretch of the border, Eric. Guns linked to Operation Fast and Furious have been found at the scenes of at least 11 violent crimes inside the United States. There is evidence for other Gunwalker-style operations in states as far from the border as Indiana.

How many of those weapons have been involved in the cop-killings you decry, Mr. Attorney General? How much of that increase has been fed by your department? And yet you can stand there and feign outrage over “illegal firearms?”

Maybe you’re impressed with this farcical bit of mummery. Maybe the lackey media is, too.

But, I assure you, the rest of us aren’t.

via Pirate’s Cove

RELATED: Earlier posts about Gunwalker.

UPDATE: Welcome readers of The Sundries Shack!

Footnote:
(1) Executive summary: Gunwalker was a joint operation of several American law-enforcement agencies and apparently run out of the US Attorney’s office in Arizona. Legitimate gun-dealers in Arizona were encouraged by these agencies to sell thousands of heavy firearms to “straw buyers,” persons acting as covert agents for Mexican drug cartels. No effort was made to trace or keep track of these weapons, which are only found again when they turn up at crime scenes or during police operations. Unlike an earlier (but very different) operation, the Mexican government was not consulted for this, nor were our agents in Mexico kept informed. As a consequence, people have died on both sides of the border and the DoJ is stonewalling to a degree not seen since Nixon. Yeah, it’s a big steaming mess.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Operation Fast and Furious: it looks like I was wrong

December 8, 2011

Several bloggers and writers have speculated that advancing a left-wing gun-control agenda was the reason behind the mind-bogglingly idiotic operation to allow and encourage gun dealers in the American Southwest to sell firearms to “straw buyers” — people operating as agents for the Mexican drug cartels who would then smuggle the weapons back to their murderous bosses in Mexico. I’ve been resistant, thinking to myself that, whatever the reason behind the operation also known as “Gunwalker,” it couldn’t be something this asinine, this stupid.

My friends, I’m here to admit I may very well have been wrong. CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who’s been almost the sole MSM voice following this story, has the details:

Documents obtained by CBS News show that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discussed using their covert operation “Fast and Furious” to argue for controversial new rules about gun sales.
PICTURES: ATF “Gunwalking” scandal timeline

In Fast and Furious, ATF secretly encouraged gun dealers to sell to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels to go after the “big fish.” But ATF whistleblowers told CBS News and Congress it was a dangerous practice called “gunwalking,” and it put thousands of weapons on the street. Many were used in violent crimes in Mexico. Two were found at the murder scene of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

ATF officials didn’t intend to publicly disclose their own role in letting Mexican cartels obtain the weapons, but emails show they discussed using the sales, including sales encouraged by ATF, to justify a new gun regulation called “Demand Letter 3″. That would require some U.S. gun shops to report the sale of multiple rifles or “long guns.” Demand Letter 3 was so named because it would be the third ATF program demanding gun dealers report tracing information.

On July 14, 2010 after ATF headquarters in Washington D.C. received an update on Fast and Furious, ATF Field Ops Assistant Director Mark Chait emailed Bill Newell, ATF’s Phoenix Special Agent in Charge of Fast and Furious:

“Bill – can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks.”

In other words, the ATF wanted to link gun violence in Mexico to firearms sold in the United States in order to justify a further regulatory burden on Americans’ rights under the 2nd Amendment. The only problem here is that the government created this “crisis” by pressing gun dealers into selling the weapons to suspected straw buyers… when it wasn’t selling them to the cartels directly.

Pretty slick, isn’t it? The government wants a new regulation that’s been resisted by gun dealers and 2nd Amendment advocates, so it feeds guns to the murderous cartels, inciting the violence and giving it a reason to say “Hey, there’s a real problem here” and argue for more restrictions on firearms. Circle closed, astroturf laid.

Meanwhile, legitimate gun dealers are made to look like idiots who’d sell any amount of weaponry to anyone with enough cash without batting  an eye. Far from it: some dealers did see a big looming problem and wanted to make sure they weren’t left to hang for it. Attkisson quotes an email from one to the ATF:

“I wanted to make sure that none of the firearms that were sold per our conversation with you and various ATF agents could or would ever end up south of the border or in the hands of the bad guys. I guess I am looking for a bit of reassurance that the guns are not getting south or in the wrong hands…I want to help ATF with its investigation but not at the risk of agents (sic) safety because I have some very close friends that are US Border Patrol agents in southern AZ as well as my concern for all the agents (sic) safety that protect our country.”

That was from spring, 2010. US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot dead the following December by cartel operatives using guns obtained through Operation Fast and Furious.

I don’t know whether “Demand Letter 3″ was the reason for Operation Fast and Furious, or if the operation was already underway and someone saw an opportunity to advance the gun-control agenda, but it really doesn’t matter. In addition to Agent Terry, two other US agents were shot in Mexico, perhaps with “walked” guns. One, Jaime Zapata, died. Over two hundred Mexican soldiers, marines, federal agents, and civilians have died thanks to Operation Fast and Furious.

Someone, meaning several people, up to and including the Attorney General of the United States and even his boss, needs to be held to account for this fiasco.

And that includes jail time.

RELATED: AG Holder is scheduled to testify today before Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House committee. In the wake of this news, it should be interesting, to say the least. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), who’s been spearheading the investigation in the upper chamber, has called for the resignation of Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer for deceiving Congress. Breuer has admitted to knowing about Fast and Furious, but tried to pass the blame to an earlier Bush-era program. Earlier posts dealing with Operation Fast and Furious.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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