Mike Vanderboegh On White House Links To Fast And Furious

As I said yesterday, it will take days to sift through all the stuff that was released on Tuesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the first part of their Final Report on Operation Fast and Furious.

Mike Vanderboegh has been doing some sifting of his own. He has written extensively in the past about Dr. Kevin O’Reilly who had been in the White House on the National Security Council. You may remember that he and Phoenix SAC Bill Newell had a back channel communication going on Operation Fast and Furious. While Newell has been questioned about this, the White House refused to let the Oversight Committee speak with Dr. O’Reilly citing executive privilege.

In his latest installment, Mike finds more evidence of the White House’s fingerprints on Operation Fast and Furious. Sit down with a cup of coffee and read it a couple of times. There is a lot there.

That Other O’Reilly

Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) want to hear what O’Reilly has to say. Not Bill O’Reilly who has the show called The O’Reilly Factor but White House staffer Kevin O’Reilly. This was the person with whom Bill Newell, former SAC of the ATF’s Phoenix Field Division, had back channel communications regarding Operation Fast and Furious. Conveniently enough, Kevin O’Reilly moved to the State Department and is now in Iraq on assignment.

Yesterday Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley sent a letter to Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President, requesting that Mr. O’Reilly be allowed to testify. They note that Mr. O’Reilly’s personal attorney is willing to let him testify if it is allowed by the White House. Moreover, in a break from normal procedures, they are willing to let him testify by phone from Iraq.

What they want Mr. O’Reilly to testify about is the nature of the back channel communications between himself and Bill Newell.

To this day, Newell has failed to disown Fast and Furious or admit the flawed nature of the program. This failure has raised new questions. Was Newell looking for authorization outside of his chain-of-command in order to continue this deadly program? What did O’Reilly know about the objectives and tactics used in Fast and Furious and with whom did he share his knowledge? These answers are gemane to the Committee’s investigation. O’Reilly is the only person capable of supply accurate answers to them.

Of course, as Dave Workman points out, the White House is denying that they knew anything about gun walking. Eric Schultz, the Associate Communications Director, had this to say to FoxNews:

“White House Counsel is reviewing the letter and will respond as appropriate. But broadly speaking, while some personnel in the White House were made aware of ATF’s efforts to combat gun trafficking along the southwest border, including Operation Fast and Furious, there has been no evidence to suggest that anyone at the White House knew about any decision to allow guns to ‘walk’ to Mexico.”

Schultz is the White House staffer or, as I would call him, the punk, who thought his position gave him the right to berate and curse CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson over her coverage of Project Gunwalker. We have come to find out this is standard operating procedure in the Obama White House when they are seeking to kill a story.

Sen. Grassley was interviewed by Jon Scott of FoxNews about his letter and his efforts to get testimony from Mr. O’Reilly. Sen. Grassley says that they have one side of the story from ATF SAC Bill Newell and they need the other side of the story from Kevin O’Reilly. He also said that they were being stonewalled by the White House and that this continual stonewalling leads one to look guilty of something. He has a point there – if the White House has nothing to hide then they should make Kevin O’Reilly available for telephonic testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. I’m guessing it isn’t going to happen.

HR 3289 – The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has introduced legislation that would strengthen the protections granted to whistleblowers in the Federal government. This act, HR 3289 – The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011, was introduced yesterday and has 3 co-sponsors including Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee. While the text of the legislation is not yet available, Issa’s office did release this statement about the bill.

WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today announced the introduction of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (H.R. 3289). The legislation will strengthen provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act, originally enacted in 1989, for federal government employees who expose abuse, mismanagement, or criminal activity in federal agencies and programs.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is an original co-sponsor of the legislation, as are Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who sponsored whistleblower protection enhancement legislation last congress. Similar legislation was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last month. You can read a copy of the House legislation here.

“Whistleblowers play critical roles in exposing wrongdoing in government,” said Issa.”Federal employees who discover waste, abuse and mismanagement in their agency need to be able to alert agency leaders and Congress without fear of reprisal from supervisors, and within the confines of the law. This legislation establishes new protections for those who seek lawful ways to address abuse of taxpayer dollars.”

When enacted, the legislation will:

  • close judicially-created loopholes in existing whistleblower protection law;
  • extend whistleblower protection rights to some 40,000 airport baggage screeners;
  • increase avenues for intelligence community whistleblowers to safely and legally expose waste, fraud and abuse at intelligence agencies;
  • create specific protection in the law for scientific freedom;
  • ensure a permanent anti-gag statute to neutralize classifications like “classifiable,” “sensitive but unclassified,” “sensitive security information” and other poorly defined security labels;
  • establish consistency with other remedial employment laws;
  • strengthen the Office of Special Counsel’s ability to seek disciplinary accountability against those who retaliate, and provides the OSC with authority to file friend of the court briefs in support of whistleblower rights cases appealed from the administrative level;
  • create a pilot program to extend whistleblower protection to non-defense contractors.

The legislation will be considered at a business meeting of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday November 3rd at 9:30 a.m.

Given the retaliation that we have seen against such ATF whistleblowers as John Dodson, Vincent Cefalu, and Jay Dobyns, I think this legislation is an overdue step in the right direction.

Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com did a story a week and a half ago about ATF Agent Jay Dobyns who, after successfully infiltrating the Hell’s Angels, received death threats, threats against his family, and had his house burned to the ground. These threats were ignored by the then head of the Phoenix Field Division William Newell. When Dobyns filed a complaint, Newell retaliated against him. As Pavlich notes as to why this matters:

So why does this matter? Newell was the brainchild of Operation Fast and Furious in the ATF Phoenix Field office. Newell is also the agent who was in regular contact with a member of the White House national security team, Kevin O’Reilly, about the lethal program. Newell also said he would conduct Operation Fast and Furious again, despite two Americans and hundreds of innocent Mexicans dead as a result of the program.

Newell used Dobyns as a test run, to see just how much he could get away with in his management position within ATF before getting reprimanded. Considering nobody was held accountable for the mistakes made in handling death threats against Dobyns, Newell knew he had the green light to do whatever he wanted, at the highest levels of corruption. The Dobyns case empowered him. Newell was protected and defended for ignoring violent death threats against a federal agent, he had free reign to do what he wanted. This gave Newell everything he needed to get away with Operation Fast and Furious, which started in Fall 2009.

If Newell and Gillett had been reprimanded and/or fired when they should have been, we may never had a Project Gunwalker and Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry could well still be alive. That sounds like as good a reason as any to see HR 3289 pass and be signed into law.

Quote Of The Day

In his discussion of rumors that former Deputy Attorney General David Ogden is going to roll over on Eric Holder and others in the Obama Administration – which Mike warns might be a disinformation effort – he goes on to say that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has enough now that they could indict William Newell for perjury. That is, if the Republican leadership would allow it.

Sources say that the Oversight Committee has more than enough evidence to charge “Gunwalker Bill” Newell (and others) with more than one count of perjury. The Republican leadership, specifically John Boehner, is reported to oppose that because “he doesn’t want to get ahead of the facts,” according to one source. The same source, who works for the federal government, added in disgust, “The real reason is that Boehner is a pussy.”

The source believes that were Newell to be charged, demonstrating the seriousness of the Committee’s intent, that “there would be an instant change in the attitude of the rest of the guilty” and that “the cover-up would collapse overnight.” The cover-up “COULD be collapsed overnight,” said the source, “if the Republican leadership had the balls to do it. But they don’t.”

More than once I’ve been tempted to send a set of these to the Republican leadership as a replacement but didn’t want to waste the money.

Newell – “Could Have Been Clearer, More Complete, and More Direct”

Lori Jane Gliha of ABC15-New in Phoenix reports yesterday that former the SAC of the Phoenix Field Division Bill Newell now says his answers in the July hearing “could have been clearer, more complete, and more direct.” To that end, he and his attorney have released a 12-page document that they are calling supplemental testimony.

It is interesting that Newell has chosen now to release this supplemental statement given the release of audio tapes involving ATF Agent Hope McAllister and Lone Wolf Trading Company owner Andre Howard. I’m just speculating here but this statement seems to be an effort to get out in front of what is released in the tapes.

As it is, Newell is still trying defend Operation Fast and Furious in what is obviously a carefully crafted letter. He says that an errors were errors of omission rather than commission. He then makes the claim that ATF officials in Mexico and Mexican authorities were kept informed. This claim has been previously denied by both former ATF Attache Darren Gil and Mexican authorities. Finally, he goes on to say that he had no knowledge of any formal whistle-blowing until ATF Senior Agent John Dodson went public with Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News. I think this last claim is an attempt to protect himself against charges of retaliation against the whistle-blowers.

Newell’s letter is embedded below and can also be found here.

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Newell, White House Staffer Discused Fast And Furious

In an article on today’s hearings into Operation Fast and Furious, CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson has this update on William Newell’s testimony.

Update, 2:40 p.m.: The special agent in charge of the Phoenix ATF office during gunwalking scandal, Bill Newell, testified early this afternoon that he discussed the program with a White House staffer.

Newell said he talked to his friend, Kevin O’Reilly, who is listed the White House’s Director for North America at the National Security Council.

This is, to my knowledge, the first direct indication that at least one staffer in the White House was aware of Operation Fast and Furious. There is no way to know currently whether he passed this information to others on the NSC or up the chain to the President’s office.

With every revelation in Project Gunwalker, it just keeps getting more and more interesting.

UPDATE: David Codrea examines the significance of the NSC’s Director for North America being in the loop about Project Gunwalker here.

What’s evident from today’s exchange is Issa’s committee has some degree of access to past Newell/O’Reilly email correspondence. How much is one question. Where following up on what they have will lead—and how high up—is another, and the most important one of all.

William Newell Is Full Of It

I just read over the prepared testimony of former ATF SAC of Phoenix Field Division William Newell. To put it bluntly, it is full of self-serving bullshit.

On Brian Terry’s death:

The death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is one I will mourn for the rest of my life, as I do for all those brave heroes who have taken up the badge to serve and protect and then made the ultimate sacrifice. I express my deepest condolences to the Terry family and may our Heavenly Father bless him and the Terry family through these very difficult times.

On the lack of “tools” to combat gun trafficking:

Firearms trafficking investigations are not always easy to conduct for a variety of reasons including the lack of a Federal statute that specifically prohibits firearms trafficking related activity; 1 the fact that firearms unless altered in some way are not, in and of themselves, contraband; the lack of adequate punishment for “straw” purchasers thus impacting our ability to identify the leadership of the criminal organization; and the limited resources at our disposal.

On gunwalking:

One, it was not the purpose of the investigation to permit the transportation of firearms into Mexico and to the best of my knowledge none of the suspects in this case was ever witnessed by our agents crossing the border with firearms.

 On keeping ATF Agents in Mexico informed on Operation Fast and Furious:

From the beginning of this investigation in late 2009 to the first indictments in January of 2011 I made every reasonable effort to keep the Phoenix PGR representative and my ATF colleagues in Mexico briefed on this investigation. I am also aware of numerous discussions throughout this investigation between the agents working this case with their ATF peers in Mexico, dialogue which I encouraged. In addition, and in conjunction with our Mexico Country Office, I extended an invitation for Mexican Federal prosecutors to participate in briefings in order to provide them with essential facts of the case. I was determined that if and when we ever identified the key decision makers of the criminal organization, most likely cartel members in Mexico, that we would be fully supportive of providing this information to our Mexican counterparts in order for them to pursue criminal charges there.

William Newell, Whistle-Blower?

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?