Reporting from Washington, Richard Serrano with the L.A. Times is broke details on newly obtained emails that show that the White House was better informed about a failed gun-tracking operation on the border with Mexico than was previously known or currently admitted – officially.
Three White House national security officials were given some details about the operation, dubbed Fast and Furious. The operation allowed firearms to be illegally purchased, with the goal of tracking them to Mexican drug cartels. But the effort went out of control after agents lost track of many of the weapons.
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.
But a senior administration official said the emails, obtained Thursday by The Times, did not prove that anyone in the White House was aware of the covert "investigative tactics" of the operation.
"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."
He identified the three White House officials who were briefed as Kevin M. O’Reilly, director of North American Affairs for the White House national security staff; Dan Restrepo, the president’s senior Latin American advisor; and Greg Gatjanis, a White House national security official. Apparently, proving something at the White House requires a court of law.
"The emails were not forwarded beyond them, and we are not aware of any [additional] briefings related to that email chain," the official said.
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.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) are trying to determine what the Justice Department and the White House knew about the program.
According to the emails, William D. Newell, then the ATF field supervisor for Arizona and New Mexico, was in close contact with O’Reilly and sought the White House’s help to persuade the Mexican government to let ATF agents recover U.S. guns across the border.
After earlier emails from Newell to O’Reilly surfaced, Newell testified to congressional investigators in July that the two were friends and acknowledged that he probably should not have sent them to him. But the new emails indicate that Newell and O’Reilly were in deeper discussions about gun operations on the border.
To read the entire story from the L.A. Times, click here.