In testimony this week, Bill Newell, the Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office stated to investigators that he had sent an email to a longtime friend in the White House that included information on Operation Fast and Furious. Eh, no big deal, right? A low-level exchange of information between friends that never went beyond their circle of two.
The problem is, Newell's longtime friend was White House National Security Director for North America Kevin O'Reilly. It seems Mr. O'Reilly was making a request for stats on Project Gunrunner (via CBS News):
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."
Hmmmm....if this program was restricted entirely to the ATF as Eric Holder would have us believe, how did someone from the White House have knowledge of this in the first place? O'Reilly isn't some low level guy, so one might argue that he would naturally be aware of the operation. The thing is, we all know how our agencies loathe to share information with each other, don't we?
In fact, couldn't that be considered the basis of Holder's original argument when information started to leak out - that the whole fiasco was entirely in the hands of the ATF, and if Director Melson would only step down, everything would be put to rights because none of the other agencies had any awareness of the operation?
With the drama of the debt ceiling crisis sucking all of the oxygen out of the room, this story has gone remarkably unreported, considering its explosive nature. It's easy to imagine that in a different time, news like this would have lead immediately to speculation on what the President knew and when he knew it. Calls for a special prosecutor would escalate. Who knows, once the debt ceiling issue has been resolved, those calls may well begin to increase.
Not only do we have Newell's testimony to consider, but we also have video of an Obama Administration official discussing Project Gunrunner and (a yet unnamed) Operation Fast and Furious. In it David Ogden, Deputy Attorney General, is discussing efforts the administration was enacting with Mexico on tracing illegal guns - the portion of Gunrunner that was Operation Fast and Furious (the pertinent part is at the 0:41 mark):
Please note he mentions the fact that the project was paid for with Stimulus dollars (to the tune of $10 million). He also states that the ATF was supposed to be working with Mexican authorities. Unfortunately, not only were Mexican authorities apparently kept out of the loop, but so were ATF agents stationed in Mexico.
There is also a transcript of none other than Attorney General Eric Holder speaking in Cuernavaca, Mexico about Gunrunner back in 2009 (via US Dept. of Justice):
I would like to thank the Mexican and U.S. experts who have worked so hard on this issue. On our side, Secretary Napolitano and I are committed to putting the resources in place to increase our attack on arms trafficking into Mexico.
Last week, our administration launched a major new effort to break the backs of the cartels. My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner, DEA is adding 16 new positions on the border, as well as mobile enforcement teams, and the FBI is creating a new intelligence group focusing on kidnapping and extortion. DHS is making similar commitments, as Secretary Napolitano will detail.
As we go along and figure out who is to blame for what, let's not forget that the entire fiasco was funded by 2009's democrat-created stimulus bill, including the provisions that funded Project Gunrunner (and it's offshoot, Operation Fast and Furious). Which means the leader of the party at the time, Nancy Pelosi, was also involved in this mess. After all, she held the purse strings back then, and made sure republicans were entirely shut out of the process. If nothing else, it would be interesting to know who told her to earmark that $10 million, wouldn't it?
So is it a vast, left-wing conspiracy to gin up outrage in order to pass the liberal dream of stricter gun control laws? It's a bit too early to tell, really. But looking at the information out there already, it's certainly starting to resemble something like that. And we know how those crazy progressives just love to work in lockstep, now don't we? With their ends justify the means mentality, it unfortunately doesn't seem as far-fetched as many (myself included) would like.
Rep. Issa certainly has his work cut out for him, but he seems more than up to the task. Keep up the good work!