WASHINGTON - Late Friday, the White House turned over new documents in the Congressional investigation into the ATF "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal.
The documents show extensive communications between then-ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell - who led Fast and Furious - and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O'Reilly. Emails indicate the two also spoke on the phone. Such detailed, direct communications between a local ATF manager in Phoenix and a White House national security staffer has raised interest among Congressional investigators looking into Fast and Furious. Newell has said he and O'Reilly are long time friends.
Newly-released White House documents (pdf)
ATF agents say that in Fast and Furious, their agency allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons to be sold to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. At least two of the guns turned up at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.
ATF Manager says he shared Fast and Furious with the White House
The email exchanges span a little over a month last summer. They discuss ATF's gun trafficking efforts along the border including the controversial Fast and Furious case, though not by name. The emails to and from O'Reilly indicate more than just a passing interest in the Phoenix office's gun trafficking cases. They do not mention specific tactics such as "letting guns walk."
A lawyer for the White House wrote Congressional investigators: "none of the communications between ATF and the White House revealed the investigative law enforcement tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to allow guns to 'walk.'"
ATF Fast and Furious: Who at the White House knew?
Among the documents produced: an email in which ATF's Newell sent the White House's O'Reilly an "arrow chart reflecting the ultimate destination of firearms we intercepted and/or where the guns ended up." The chart shows arrows leading from Arizona to destinations all over Mexico.
Newell email (09.03.10) (pdf)
Arizona Gunrunner Impact Team chart (pdf)
In response, O'Reilly wrote on Sept. 3, 2010 "The arrow chart is really interesting - and - no surprise - implies at least that different (Drug Trafficking Organizations) in Mexico have very different and geographically distinct networks in the US for acquiring guns. Did last year's TX effort develop a similar graphic?"
O'Reilly email (09.03.10) (pdf)
The White House counsel who produced the documents stated that some records were not included because of "significant confidentiality interests."
(Credit: CBS) Also included are email photographs including images of a .50 caliber rifle (left) that Newell tells O'Reilly "was purchased in Tucson, Arizona (part of another OCDTF case)." OCDTF is a joint task force that operates under the Department of Justice and includes the US Attorneys, ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE and IRS. Fast and Furious was an OCDTF case.
An administration source would not describe the Tucson OCDTF case. However, CBS News has learned that ATF's Phoenix office led an operation out of Tucson called "Wide Receiver." Sources claim ATF allowed guns to "walk" in that operation, much like Fast and Furious.
Congressional investigators for Republicans Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) have asked to interview O'Reilly by September 30. But the Administration informed them that O'Reilly is on assignment for the State Department in Iraq and unavailable.
One administration source says White House national security staffers were "briefed on the toplines of ongoing federal efforts, but nobody in White House knew about the investigative tactics being used in the operation, let alone any decision to let guns walk."