WASHINGTON - Late Friday, the White House turned over new documents in the Congressional investigation into the ATF "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal.
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.
ATF agents say that in Fast and Furious, their agency allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons to be sold to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. At least two of the guns turned up at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.
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."
A lawyer for the White House wrote Congressional investigators: "none of the communications between ATF and the White House revealed the investigative law enforcement tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to allow guns to 'walk.'"
Well, there is no unmistakeable description of the investigative tactics being employed. However, on page 73 of the 102 page .pdf we notice this, from Special Agent Bill Newell of the Phoenix ATF office:
Also, not mentioned in these docs but VERY relevant to Mr. Brennan’s [I infer that to be counterterror advisor John Brennan] meeting next week is the fact that we and the USA were going to announce the indictment of a dozen “straw purchase” case addressing firearms trafficking by 30 individuals. We finally have the USAO here on board with going after “straw” purchasers and making a statement, publically especially, that we will take action against those folks. In reality we look at “straw” purchases as the lowest ring on the firearms trafficking ladder but in many investigations we need their cooperation in order to identify the real traffickers and middlemen. Having the USAO backing our “play” when we first interact with “straw” purchases adds tremendous leverage to our efforts to get the truth from them so we can work our way up the ladder.
That seems to be a clear statement that the US Attorney's office had not been interested in prosecuting the buyers at the bottom of the straw purchase food chain, and is certainly consistent with the allegation that straw buyers were kept under surveillance and allowed to stay in business. Well, until leaving them on the streets became too embarrassing - e.g., in the "Avila Indictment", Jaime Avila was a known straw purchaser who was finally busted the day after guns purchased by him were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.