When the “Project Gunwalker” scandal became big enough that President Obama had to acknowledge that perhaps a “serious mistake was made,” he claimed unequivocally that neither he nor Attorney General Eric Holder had authorized this monstrosity, and that Obama himself had not even been informed of it. His wording perhaps left him some wiggle room as to whether Holder knew about it, but didn’t “authorize” it (although as head of the Department of Justice, how knowledge on his part could not be seen to be at least tacit authorization would seem a fair question).
Holder himself made perhaps a stronger claim on May 3, in an appearance, under oath, before the House Judiciary Committee, when he told Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) that he thought he’d first heard of Operation Fast and Furious a “few weeks” previously. This, despite having received a letter from Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), asking specifically about that operation, almost three months prior to that hearing.
Let’s though, for the sake of argument, take the President and Attorney General at their word, and accept for the time being their claimed ignorance about “Gunwalker.” Similarly, let’s for now not wrestle with the question of how such ignorance could possibly be consistent with the conscientious meeting of the responsibilities of their high offices.
Instead, let’s look at some of the recently revealed information about how many government officials did know about it. On Tuesday, we saw that the FBI must have been in on it, because two of the purchasers (who accounted for more than 350 of the “gunwalked” guns) were themselves convicted felons, and thus unable to pass the mandated FBI-administered background check, without some mysterious help (and this revelation is apparently causing ulcers at FBI Headquarters).
Tuesday was also the day of the latest “Gunwalker” hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. During that hearing, William Newell, who had been the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix field division when this fiasco was going on, did his level best not to provide useful answers to any questions. This prompted Rep. Issa to call Newell a “paid non-answerer,” and even BATFE apologist Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) described Newell’s evasive testimony as “very frustrating to both sides.”
Still, Newell didn’t manage to avoid dropping some bombshells. One of those came in response to tough questioning (see sidebar video) from Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA), who extracted this little tidbit from Newell (emphasis added):
In this investigation, they were full partners in this case, was Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now known as Homeland Security Investigations, we had Internal Revenue Service, and we had assistance, to some level, from DEA.
So now we’re seeing that this is bigger than the Department of Justice, with other cabinet level departments involved.
Perhaps Newell’s biggest admission was the fact that he had exchanged emails last year about Operation Fast and Furious with National Security Council (NSC) Director of North American Affairs Kevin O’Reilly (National Gun Rights Examiner Dan presents the full transcript of that part of the testimony here). As the Sipsey Street Irregulars’ Mike Vanderboegh points out, this moves knowledge of the scandal not just close to the White House, but inside it:
The President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State are considered to be statutory attendees of NSC meetings, but they are also regularly joined by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Advisor, and other executive officials. The NSC conducts its meetings in the White House Situation Room, and the National Security Advisor’s presence in the West Wing provides the President with direct access to research, briefings, and intelligence related to all aspects of national security.
So, that brings us back to the question in today’s title–if Holder and Obama didn’t know about “Project Gunwalker,” were they the only senior government officials so out of touch? Well, we can probably assume Vice President Biden wasn’t in on it either. Otherwise, he would probably not have managed to avoid calling it a “big f—ing deal” within range of a microphone.
- A journalist’s guide to ‘Project Gunwalker’-Part One
- A Journalist’s Guide to ‘Project Gunwalker-Part Two
- A Journalist’s Guide to ‘Project Gunwalker’-Part Three
- A Journalist’s Guide to ‘Project Gunwalker’-Part Four
- Official Correspondence on the Project Gunwalker Scandal.
- Sharyl Attkisson’s stories on CBS
- Mr. Vanderboegh goes to Washington, gets thrown out of a hearing on complaint from DOJ harridan attorney, harrassed by MM puke & had fun doing it.
- ATF’s Phoenix SAC emailed Gunwalker info to National Security Council
- Transcript of Newell questioning related to NSC’s O’Reilly
- Fast & Furious: The man who knew too little
- The $1.1 Billion Dollar Question We Asked the Committee to Ask. “Do you know who Kevin O’Reilly is?”
- Issa Hopes White House Official Aware of Fast and Furious Will Testify.
- Fast and furious incrimination