Oh, my. I think the fuse has been lit on blowing this fiasco wide open, and the spark is headed right for the White House:
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.
So now we are certain that someone senior at the White House knew about Operation Fast and Furious (aka “Gunwalker”) in late 2010, yet as late as this last spring, Holder and Obama were claiming they had learned of it only much later.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told Issa that he did not learn about Fast and Furious until this spring. President Obama said that Holder told him he would not have allowed guns to go into Mexico.
Hmmm… We’ve already established that it’s about as likely as the Sun rising in the West that Holder didn’t know, but what about Obama? If this org chart (PDF) is still accurate (1), then NSC staffers with regional responsibilities report to the Deputy National Security Adviser, who reports to the National Security Adviser, who reports to… the President of the United States.
Very suggestive, but not proof-positive.
As Ed Morrissey asks, why did O’Reilly want to know, and why did Newell feel compelled to say “You didn’t get this from me?”
Either O’Reilly was attending a meeting of peers and wanted to be brought up to speed — it is in his purview, after all, but then why the “cloak and dagger” stuff? — or was he briefing those above him? And how high did the briefing go?
Let’s keep in mind that this debacle has cost the lives of at least one US federal agent and roughly 150 Mexican civilians, federal agents, and soldiers. Agencies of the US government supplied weapons to criminal cartels that threaten the stability of our large southern neighbor and then lost track of nearly 2,000 of those guns. It is a monument to gross stupidity and incompetence — and very possibly criminal, what Rep. Darrell Issa has called “felony stupid.”
With the revelation that people on the President’s national security staff knew about Gunwalker, it’s about time for subpoenas.
(1) While O’Reilly’s office doesn’t appear on this org chart, I think it’s reasonable to assume that, whether it’s new or renamed from “Western Hemisphere Affairs,” he too would report to the Deputy NSA.
UPDATE: “The ATF armed the Sinaloa Cartel. It’s disgusting.”
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)