A two-year old news article about Arizona guns falling into the hands of Mexican cartels, that preceded the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the unraveling of government-sanctioned gunwalking, has been rediscovered by Attorney David Hardy on his Of Arms and the Law blog. The story was filed “[r]ight in the middle of the Fast and Furious gunrunning,” Hardy observes, adding “with SAC William Newell overseeing the operation.”
Special Agent in Charge Newell headed the Phoenix field division from which Operation Fast and Furious was executed.
“Weapons that trace back to dealers and sellers in Arizona are being found at various Mexican crime scenes,” the ABC15 news account begins, citing Newell throughout.
“At various Mexican crime scenes, Newell said they are finding weapons that trace back to dealers and sellers in Arizona,” the story continues, quoting Newell’s claim that “I go to Mexico all the time, I see US-sourced firearms there all the time. A large percentage of those firearms that they illegally acquire and illegally traffic to Mexico are from the U.S. and a large percentage are from Arizona.”
What Newell gave no hint of was the involvement of his office in doing its utmost to ensure that would happen, and by the time he opportunistically used the media as his mouthpiece, we know from the Congressional Joint Staff Report on Fast and Furious subtitled “Fueling Cartel Violence,” he was masking his involvement in upping the numbers at the same time he was exploiting gun trafficking as a public relations tool.
“In late 2009, ATF officials stationed in Mexico began to notice a large volume of guns appearing there that were traced to the ATF’s Phoenix Field Division,” the report reveals. “These weapons were increasingly recovered in great numbers from violent crime scenes. ATF intelligence analysts alerted Darren Gil, Attaché to Mexico, and Carlos Canino, Deputy Attaché, about the abnormal number of weapons. Gil and Canino communicated their worries to leadership in Phoenix and Washington, D.C., only to be brushed aside. Furthermore, ATF personnel in Arizona denied ATF personnel in Mexico access to crucial information about the case, even though the operation directly involved their job duties and affected their host country.
“Rather than share information, senior leadership within both ATF and the Department of Justice (DOJ) assured their representatives in Mexico that everything was ‘under control,’” the report continued. “The growing number of weapons recovered in Mexico, however, indicated otherwise.”
Noting the date when Newell was publicly wringing his hands about gun trafficking and private sales, it’s illustrative to note the report reveals “ATF officials in Mexico continued to raise the alarm over the burgeoning number of weapons. By October 2010, the amount of seized and recovered weapons had “maxed out” space in the Phoenix Field Division evidence vault. Nevertheless, ATF and DOJ failed to share crucial details of Operation Fast and Furious with either their own employees stationed in Mexico or representatives of the Government of Mexico.”
So while Newell was patting himself on the back and getting free publicity, his sanctioned operations were creating what Canino described as “the perfect storm of idiocy.”
We also know from the report that even though noises were being made to shut down Fast and Furious three months before Newell mugged for the ABC15 piece, it took the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, and the discovery of walked guns at his murder scene, to get ATF officials, who knew perfectly well their role in things, to abruptly pull the plug—contemporaneous with when Eric Holder aide Monty Wilkinson advised then-District of Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke “”I’ve alerted the AG…”
A congressional hearing exchange, featuring Newell being questioned by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, where the ATF caporegime dodges and weaves and denies guns were allowed to walk, is presented in this column’s sidebar video player. Because it is so unbelievable, watching it will be more instructive than any description. Also recall that Newell was the one who sent Fast and Furious information to then-Director of North American Affairs for the National Security Council Kevin O’Reilly with the caution “You didn’t get these from me,” that O’Reilly was removed from the country to a State Department assignment in Iraq, and that, even with his return, the White House Counsel will not allow him to testify to the Oversight Committee, and he has refused to cooperate with the Office of inspector General.
What’s clear is if the continued inquiry is left solely to Republican Congressional investigators, resolution will remain unattainable goals, blocked at every turn by continued DOJ stonewalling and legal maneuverings, by the Democrats, and by a media sympathetic to an uncooperative administration. The Republican leadership, the Romney/Ryan ticket and the National Rifle Association have all taken great advantage of Fast and Furious opportunities, but to date have refused to weigh in on the one thing that would ensure a complete and thorough accounting: a commitment by Mitt Romney that, if elected, he will revoke executive privilege protecting subpoenaed documents from the Oversight Committee, and direct his administration to cooperate fully with the investigation. Let anyone who objects to that for personal reasons lawyer up on their own dime, without the practically invulnerable shield and inexhaustible resources of the federal government to hide behind.
But the key, ultimately, is not with supposed friends, who for reasons of their own have kept silent on a Romney commitment—it’s with everyone who professes to want to see truth and justice and accountability for Fast and Furious. If you’re one of those, and have not yet made your expectations clear, the key is with you. If they only hear from a handful, they’ll figure the issue is safe to ignore with no repercussions, and they’ll probably be right.
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