New e-mails obtained yesterday by The Los Angeles Times show at least three national security officials received information about Operation Fast and Furious. An anonymous administration official says these e-mails don’t prove anyone in the White House knew about the covert “investigative tactics” used in the program — but they do show William Newell, then the ATF field supervisor for Arizona and New Mexico, was in close contact with Kevin O’Reilly, director of North American affairs for the White House national security staff, between July 2010 and February of this year.
In fact, Newell sought the White House’s help to persuade the Mexican government to let ATF agents recover U.S. guns across the border, and O’Reilly on several occasions sounded out Newell to see how efforts to combat gun trafficking in Arizona were going. In response to O’Reilly’s requests, Newell praised ATF agents’ work on “firearms trafficking investigations with direct links to Mexican” cartels.
O’Reilly forwarded the information Newell provided to two other officials — Dan Restrepo, the president’s senior Latin American advisor, and Greg Gatjanis, a White House national security official. But O’Reilly reassured Newell the information “would not leave NSS.” Newell answered, “Sure, just don’t want ATF HQ to find out, especially since this is what they should be doing (briefing you)!”
Evidence of another kind of cover-up in the scandal has surfaced, too. Late last night, Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office revealed 21 Fast and Furious guns have been found at violent crime scenes in Mexico. Previously, we knew 11 guns had been found at violent crime scenes in the U.S., but ATF now says that number was inflated. The downward revision on the number of recoveries in the U.S. is scarcely comforting in light of the larger number of recoveries in Mexico, though.
As Grassley put it in a statement yesterday, “The Justice Department has been less than forthcoming since day one, so the revisions here are hardly surprising, and the numbers will likely rise until the more than 1,000 guns that were allowed to fall into the hands of bad guys are recovered — most likely years down the road. … What we’re still waiting for are the answers to the other questions the Attorney General failed to answer per our agreement. The cooperation of the Attorney General and his staff is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of this disastrous policy and help the ATF and the department move forward.”
Yep. Still waiting … and now we’re waiting for a more satisfactory answer of the significance of the White House e-mails, too.