An exchange between House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee members and William Newell, former Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s Phoenix Field Division during this morning’s hearings on Operation Fast and Furious pointed to key information that may be the most important to come out of today’s session.
Newell was asked about his relationship with Kevin O’Reilly, Director of North American Affairs of the National Security Council, and this was followed up shortly thereafter with his being questioned why he began one email correspondence with the words “You didn’t get these from me.” [UPDATE: A copy of this email is presented here.] Newell, who was chastised by multiple Committee members for being evasive, answered that he and O’Reilly were long-time friends, but he would admit no wrong-doing in why he wanted O’Reilly to keep his name secret as a source for disclosure about an investigation that allowed guns to “walk” to cartel criminals in Mexico.
The question becomes: Why is Newell’s communication with O’Reilly significant?
Rephrased: Why are ATF field office management communications about Fast and Furious with NSC’s North American Affairs Director significant?
“[Congressional investigators are] gradually building a case for a much wider, national conspiracy. By the end of this process, they’ll be able to prove that orders came from the very top,” Mike Vanderboegh of the Sipsey Street Irregulars blog told WorldNetDaily in a story filed yesterday.
Vanderboegh also gave his blog readers insights yesterday into why the Newell/O’Reilly nexus provides circumstantial evidence of highest-level cognizance:
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. During times of crisis, the National Security Advisor is also responsible for operating out of the Situation Room in order to provide the President and other members of the NSC with regular updates pertaining to the situation at hand.
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.
UPDATE: Transcript of related questioning
- Link to report referenced in photo accompanying this article
- A Journalist’s Guide to ‘Project Gunwalker’ Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four for a complete list with links of independent investigative reporting and commentary done to date by Sipsey Street Irregulars and Gun Rights Examiner.
Note to newcomers to this story: “Project Gunrunner” is the name ATF assigned to its Southwest Border Initiative to interdict gun smuggling to Mexico. “Project Gunwalker” is the name I assigned to the scandal after allegations by agents that monitored guns were allowed to fall into criminal hands on both sides of the border through a surveillance process termed “walking” surfaced.
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