A senior ATF Special Agent in a management role over Operation “Fast and Furious” communicated via email with a National Security Director for North America and may have shared information about the federal gun running operation currently mired in scandal as early as September of 2010, according to a CBS News report.
Bill Newell, Chief of the ATF’s Phoenix, Arizona office, admitted in testimony before the House Oversight Committee to email contact with White House National Security Director for North America Kevin O’Reilly, whom he described as a friend. That direct contact, however, may have touched on Operation “Fast and Furious,” which would mean the White House could have known the details of the operation almost a full year ago. According to CBS News, 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.” Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked ATF Agent Newell about this exchange, and Newell replied:
“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.”
Rep. Darell Issa hopes O’Reilly will clarify by testifying before the committee. But the Congressman also expressed his dismay at what he believes are White House efforts at the highest level to intimidate witnesses. The Washington Times reported that Rep. Issa said:
“At least two scheduled witnesses expected to be asked about a controversial weapons investigation known as “Fast and Furious” received warning letters from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to limit their testimony.”
The Feds are claiming that the letters are standard procedure and only prohibit disclosure of information protected by statute — but Rep. Issa seems to believe the letters are meant to muzzle those who have already come forward and scare other potential whistle blowers.
The House Oversight Committee also heard at least one instance of an ATF Agent who speaks openly and frankly about the operation — Special Agent in Charge Canino. Below he lays out a critical component of the whole Gunwalker scandal: the principle, taught to law enforcement from the very beginning of their careers, that you never, ever allow an illegal gun to ‘walk’ — meaning it leaves law enforcement control or surveillance . When asked what specifically disgusted him when he found out about Operation “Fast and Furious” this past April, Special Agent Canino referred to a report he read in which it appeared guns were allowed to walk, stating:
” I was so disgusted, I didn’t want to look at the case file anymore..it goes against everything we’re taught…you don’t do that….from the first day you walk into the academy…. it’s not a recognized investigative technique.”