The stonewalling and obfuscation from the Obama administration continues, as information about ill-conceived and apparently politically motivated "gunwalking" operations – and the subsequent cover-up of those programs – slowly comes to light.
The latest bit of stonewalling comes directly from the White House, where the Obama administration has refused to make available former National Security Advisor Kevin O'Reilly to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rep. Darrel Issa, R-Calif., sent a letter to the White House asking that O'Reilly be allowed to testify over the phone from Iraq, where he is serving with the State Department. Issa's letter said that O'Reilly's attorneys had already agreed to the testimony, but the White House sent a reply saying that O'Reilly is not available because he is in Iraq.
The natural question is, why? Why does Issa want to talk to O'Reilly, and why is the White House not making him available?
Issa wants to talk to O'Reilly because O'Reilly maintained a personal relationship with Phoenix ATF agent-in-charge Bill Newell and had direct communication with Newell regarding Operation Fast & Furious, the program that let some 2,000 guns from dealers cooperating with ATF flow directly into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Emails indicate that Newell was keeping O'Reilly briefed about the operation and that O'Reilly was briefing others in the White House, but investigators would like to know who O'Reilly was sharing this information with – which is, of course, the obvious reason the White House would reject Issa's request; that they do not want O'Reilly revealing who was in his information loop.
The White House dodge takes on an even more pungent odor when it is remembered that United States Attorney for Arizona Patrick Cunningham invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Issa's committee.
In another interesting turn, the Senate has approved Michael E. Horowitz as the new inspector general for the Department of Justice. What is particularly troubling about this appointment is that Horowitz is a close personal friend of Lanny Breuer, director of the DOJ Criminal Investigations Division and, thus far, the highest level DOJ officer directly implicated in the F&F scandal.
The Office of the Inspector General, or OIG, has supposedly been conducting its own investigation of Fast & Furious (and, hopefully, other similar gunwalking operations), and the DOJ has repeatedly pointed at that investigation as a reason that they cannot fully cooperate with Issa's committee's investigation or discuss matters with reporters.
Breuer has admitted to knowing about the botched Operation Wide Receiver, in which ATF allowed suspected straw sales and then, along with Mexican authorities, tried to track those guns into Mexico to their sponsors. Some 450 guns "slipped through" in the operation due to failed electronic locators, clever smugglers and ineffective communications with Mexican authorities (some suggest that there was also some corruption at work within the Mexican agencies, but that has been officially muted).
Breuer has also admitted to knowing about Fast & Furious and delivered a rather unconvincing mia culpa to Issa's committee several months ago. But even though Breuer was implicated in the case from the very inception of investigations and has testified before Issa's committee regarding what he knew and when he knew it, he has reportedly never been interviewed by investigators from the OIG.
It should also be reiterated that while Wide Receiver was a botched attempt to track guns into Mexico, Fast & Furious had no tracking component, and Mexican authorities didn't even know it was going on. The only tracking in the F&F plan was to watch for the guns to turn up at Mexican crime scenes. That is not a "botched sting operation," that is the height of arrogance and blatant disregard for human life.
One of the most startling developments in the case has been the recent revelation that two brothers, Eduardo and Jesus A. Miramontes-Varela, reputed cartel killers, who were, according to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the "Big Fish" ATF was trying to catch in the Fast & Furious investigation, were actually working for the FBI. The brothers were believed to be the money-men behind the targeted gun smuggling ring and have also been implicated in the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. It has been estimated that the brothers fronted around a quarter of a million dollars to purchase and smuggle weapons, and it's quite possible that a good bit of that money came from the FBI. Even though the FBI knew the brothers were targets in the ATF investigation, they neglected to tell ATF of their working arrangement.
Another targeted "ringleader" of the F&F operation, and the highest-level person indicted out of the investigation, was a 24-year old man named Manuel Celis-Acosta. Celis-Acosta was apparently the operational manager of the traffickers and was actually caught crossing the border with ammunition hidden in his spare tire in May of 2010 – more than 6 months before Brian Terry's murder. The ATF agent in charge of F&F interviewed Celis-Acosta, extracted promises of future cooperation, and allowed him to go. He reportedly continued running his weapons trafficking ring and never followed through on any of his promises to cooperate.
Fast & Furious ran between November 2009 and December 2010. The operation was shut down the day after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's murder on Dec. 15, 2010. The congressional and OIG investigations have been ongoing for over a year, since blogger Mike Vanderboegh and columnist David Codrea brought attention to the connection between Terry's murder and Fast & Furious guns recovered at the scene. They were able to connect Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley with ATF agents willing to blow the whistle on F&F and jump-start the congressional investigation.
The DOJ has thus far released only a fraction of the documents requested by congressional investigators – in spite of threats of contempt charges – and has repeatedly insisted that they cannot discuss Fast & Furious or the Terry murder until the OIG completes its investigation.
To date, one U.S. attorney has resigned and several ATF executives and senior agents have been shuffled around – without reductions in pay or authority – and the brave agents who stepped forward and brought attention to this debacle have been exiled to the worst jobs in the agency and threatened with prosecution for violating confidentiality rules. And OIG investigators have apparently made no effort to interview these key players either.
In 1972 a group of over-zealous Nixon supporters played cloak-and-dagger spy games against their Democrat rivals and a foolish President Nixon tried to sweep the matter under a rug. No one died. The president resigned and numerous people went to prison.
In 2010 agents operating on behalf of the U.S. government illegally funneled thousands of guns into the hands of brutal Mexican drug gangs. Those guns were subsequently used in hundreds of violent crimes (so far), including the murders of at least two U.S. law enforcement officers. The president and attorney general have been diligently working to cover up this fiasco and protect their friends, subordinates and each other from any consequences in this matter. The OIG investigation is obviously nothing more than a smokescreen, and Eric Holder and the White House have clearly hunkered down in their bunkers while actively stonewalling congressional investigators.
It's time for the stonewall to come down, the truth to be revealed and those responsible for Fast & Furious and its cover-up to pay a price for their arrogance, indifference to innocent life and violation of their oaths to uphold the Constitution.