The disastrous Obama Administration operation “Fast and Furious”, which deliberately put guns in the hands of the Mexican cartel, exploded this week with new revelations of a cover-up, and emails which tie the scandal directly to the White House for the first time.
“Fast and Furious” was an attempt to intercept gun-trafficking that sent 2,000 guns to cartel operatives via straw buyers. Critics believe that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder saw the program as an opportunity to embarrass U.S.-based gun dealers, and help galvanize support for increased gun-control measures, while controlling where and how the guns would be “walked” across the border. But the operation went horribly wrong as the guns went unaccounted for, leading to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry last December in Arizona, and the deaths of untold others inside Mexico – all using guns provided by the ATF. Holder denied knowledge of the operation at a U.S. House hearing on May 3rd, but subsequent revelations clearly show both Holder and the White House had been informed about this program as it ran off the rails.
Rep. Alan West has called for Holder to resign or be fired as a result.
Now it has been revealed that after the death of Agent Terry, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley and then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke colluded to cover-up the fact that Terry was killed using one of the guns from ‘Fast and Furious’. Evidence shows that Hurley – who knew “almost immediately” that the guns could be traced to the program, contacted Burke, and they agreed to cover it up:
In an internal email the day after the murder, Hurley, and then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, decided not to disclose the connection, saying ” … this way we do not divulge our current case (Fast and Furious) or the Border Patrol shooting case.”
As Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said “The level of involvement of the United States Attorney’s Office … in the genesis and implementation of this case is striking.” Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) are investigating the scandal, and AG Holder’s knowledge and role in its implementation.
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….
On Friday, the administration reluctantly released new and incriminating documents showing then-Special Agent William Newell with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had discussed details of Fast and Furious in a series of emails with White House National Security Council staff member Kevin O’Reilly. In one of the communications, Mr. Newell gave Mr. O’Reilly a heads-up about an upcoming press conference announcing indictments in a dozen “straw purchaser” firearms trafficking cases and a Gun Runner Impact Teams performance report containing statistics on investigations.
The congressional probe is no longer limited to just the ATF. Early on, the White House denied it had any knowledge of the gunrunning program. Agent Newell, who headed the Phoenix, Ariz., office from which the scheme’s operations were directed, contradicted that claim when he testified on Capitol Hill in July. The just-released emails reveal that not only did briefings on the shady gambit reach inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but the information provided was extensive.
On its face, the ATF’s plan made no sense. Agents directed U.S. gun stores to sell semi-automatic rifles to front men who then smuggled the weapons into Mexico for resale to drug cartels. Agents were supposed to follow the firearms all the way to the lairs of the drug kingpins – except they had no realistic means of doing so. Thus, thousands of the guns have fueled bloody drug crimes south of the border.
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, who is leading the House probe of the operation, has characterized the endeavor as “felony stupid.” Mr. Issa estimated the number of murders committed with Fast and Furious weapons at around 150, including the shooting death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was killed in December while on duty.
INGRAHAM: So they were literally screaming at you?
ATTKISSON: Yes. Well, the DOJ woman was just yelling at me. A guy from the White House–
INGRAHAM: Who was it?
ATTKISSON: On Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me–
INGRAHAM: Who was the person? Who was the person at Justice screaming?
ATTKISSON: Eric Schultz- oh, the person screaming was [DOJ spokeswoman] Tracy Schmaler. She was yelling, not screaming–
INGRAHAM: Oh, really?
ATKISSON: And the person who screamed at me was Eric Schultz at the White House.
INGRAHAM: Hmm- I thought we were supposed to be so transparent. This is a new era of transparency. And Pelosi was draining the swamp, and the White House was going to turn a new page, and that was actually good to hear. I mean, we were like- okay, that’s- we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. And then, the first time a reporter asked a serious question about, at least, a Justice Department move here, the reporter is yelled at and screamed at.
And I would imagine, Sharyl, that if- let’s say, a NBC reporter had been yelled at and screamed at by Karl Rove, we would have been hearing about it for years afterward (laughs) in the Bush administration. It would be, ‘Oh, those bullies over at the White House, once again, shutting down true inquiries into their goings-on behind closed doors.’