The Obama administration released 102 pages of new documents related to Operation Fast and Furious late Friday, revealing extensive communication between the ATF and the White House national security team about the secret gun trafficking program.
The documents, sent to Congress as part of an ongoing investigation into the failed program, indicate substantial discussion between the White House and the ATF, though do not show any direct talk of allowing guns to flow unimpeded into Mexico.
The documents show extensive communications between then-ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell -- who led Fast and Furious -- and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O'Reilly. Emails indicate the two also spoke on the phone. Such detailed, direct communications between a local ATF manager in Phoenix and a White House national security staffer has raised interest among Congressional investigators looking into Fast and Furious. Newell has said he and O'Reilly are long time friends.
The email exchanges span a little over a month last summer. They discuss ATF's gun trafficking efforts along the border including the controversial Fast and Furious case, though not by name. The emails to and from O'Reilly indicate more than just a passing interest in the Phoenix office's gun trafficking cases. They do not mention specific tactics such as "letting guns walk."
According to the documents, which contain many duplicates, the ATF's Newell sent O'Reilly at the White House an "arrow chart reflecting the ultimate destination of firearms we intercepted and/or where the guns ended up." The chart shows arrows leading from Arizona to destinations all over Mexico.
"The arrow chart is really interesting - and - no surprise - implies at least that different [Drug Trafficking Organizations] in Mexico have very different and geographically distinct networks in the US for acquiring guns. Did last year's TX effort develop a similar graphic?" O'Reilly wrote in response.
Also included in the documents were a number of photographs, including images of a .50 caliber rifle seized in Tuscon, Ariz. as part of the same joint task force Fast and Furious was a part of.
"These pics are just an example of some of the guns, ammo and magazines seized within the past week in Phoenix related to the 'large OCDETF case' I mentioned. When a 22 year old kid on State financial assistance walks into a gun store and plops down $12,000 in cash to buy a tripod mounted .50 caliber rifle that’s a clue (even for us) that he’s involved in trafficking firearms for a Mexican [Drug Trafficking Organization]," Newell wrote.
You can download the complete document set here.
Despite the release, a number of documents are still being withheld. According to Politico, Kathryn Ruemmler, chief counsel to President Barack Obama, indicated that the White House was holding on to an unspecified number of internal e-mails exchanged among three National Security Staff aides:
"These internal NSS emails are not included in the enclosed documents because the [Executive Office of the President] has significant confidentiality interests in its internal communications," Ruemmler wrote in a letter to House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
One administration source confirmed to CBS that White House security staffers were "briefed on the toplines of ongoing federal efforts, but nobody in White House knew about the investigative tactics being used in the operation, let alone any decision to let guns walk."