The L.A. Times reports White House officials may have known more about the botched Fast and Furious federal gunrunning operation than previously reported. Emails obtained by the Times show senior White House national security official Kevin O’Reilly discussing details of the gun-tracking investigation with the operation’s supervisor William Newell, before the program became public:
The supervisor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation in Phoenix specifically mentioned Fast and Furious in at least one email to a White House national security official, and two other White House colleagues were briefed on reports from the supervisor, according to White House emails and a senior administration official. …
The emails were sent between July 2010 and February of this year before it was disclosed that agents had lost track of hundreds of guns. Many are thought to have fallen into criminal hands, and some have turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including at the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
It’s not news Newell discussed the operation with O’Reilly over email. The ATF supervisor testified to that point earlier in the summer. But at the time, the White House had claimed (via an anonymous “spokesperson”) Newell and O’Reilly were actually discussing a totally different gun trafficking investigation – suggesting Newell may have misconstrued the conversation:
Today, a White House spokesman said the email was not about Fast and Furious, but about other gun trafficking efforts. The spokesman also said he didn’t know what Newell was referring to when he said he’d spoken to O’Reilly about Fast and Furious.
Based on these emails, it’s clear O’Reilly and Newell were discussing Fast and Furious. Newell even mentions the program by name. And the White House is now claiming (anonymously again…) the emails “validate” what it has been saying all along:
“The emails validate what has been said previously, which is no one at the White House knew about the investigative tactics being used in the operation, let alone any decision to let guns walk,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. “To the extent that some [national security staff members] were briefed on the top lines of ongoing federal efforts, so were members of Congress.”
It’s hard to buy this. The premise of Operation Fast and Furious is pretty cut-and-dry. If White House officials knew enough to be able to discuss the operation, they must have known enough to understand the basic tactics.