William Newell had been the Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division and was slated to become the ATF Attache to Mexico. His appointment to the U.S. Embassey in Mexico and his position as SAC of the Phoenix Field Division ended when Project Gunwalker exploded into the national consciousness. As one of the principals behind this so-called attempt to bring down a Mexican drug cartel, it appeared that he would be one of the fall guys.
Newell must have been speaking with George Gillett, former Assistant SAC of the Phoenix Field Division, who abandoned ship earlier this year and became an official whistle-blower. Gillett, who was also deeply involved in Operation Fast and Furious, saw the writing on the wall. Now it is obvious that Newell did too.
Buried within the usual gun control drivel of the House Oversight Committee Democrats’ report “Outgunned” was this tidbit.
Committee staff also conducted a transcribed interviewed of William Newell, the former Special Agent-in-Charge of the Phoenix Field Division. When asked how the lack of a firearms-trafficking statute impacts his work, he stated:
So when you have a firearm that’s taken from lawful commerce into unlawful commerce, that technically is the definition of firearms trafficking, by my understanding or under our definition. So, not having a statute that would address a pattern of activity by a group of individuals that are engaged in some form of diversion of firearms from legal to illegal creates a situation for us where we have to go and look at each individual transaction by a particular purchaser.
What Newell said is actually irrelevant. That he was interviewed by investigators of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is relevant. According to the footnote, he was interviewed on June 8, 2011. It does not say whether his interview was given under whistle-blower status or whether he was served with a subpoena.
From a strategic standpoint, I’m not sure how smart it was on the part of the Democrats to let the cat out of the bag that Newell had been interviewed. He becomes the highest ranking ATF official so far to go on record about Operation Fast and Furious. Knowing that Newell has testified makes it less likely that Acting Director Kenneth Melson will hold back when he is interviewed in July by House and Senate investigators.
If the goal of Rep. Elijah Cummings and the Democrats on the House Oversight Committee was to divert attention from the poltical higher-ups in the Justice Department – who were all put there by the Obama Administration – then they have just failed. If Kenneth Melson is the John Dean of Project Gunwalker, then what is Bill Newell? The Charles Colson or G. Gordon Liddy?