The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is investigating to what extent the White House was aware of — or involved in — the “Fast and Furious” gunwalking scandal.
The committee recently requested to speak with former White House National Security Staffer Kevin O’Reilly. According to CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson, the Obama administration answered:
O’Reilly is on assignment for the State Department in Iraq and unavailable.
Through a tip, PJ Media learned that Kevin O’Reilly was unexpectedly named director of the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau for Iraq (INL-Iraq). Long-time INL-Iraq employee Virginia Ramadan had been expected to get the position — many were quite surprised when she did not.
The previous occupants of the Director, INL-Iraq position — Joe Manso and Francisco Palmieri — were not considered “unreachable” to press or government access. A quick internet search reveals Palmieri, while director, attended a media event on August 23, 2010.
On October 21, PJ Media reporter Patrick Richardson called the number for Office of the Director, INL-Iraq:
1-240-553-0581, ext. 3275
Richardson reached a voicemail message confirming that it was indeed the correct number. He left a message that was not returned.
On Monday Richardson called again, and an assistant answered. Richardson asked to speak with Kevin O’Reilly, and the assistant asked who was calling. Richardson gave his name and stated he was with PJ Media.
The assistant said O’Reilly was currently on a conference call, and asked if Richardson wanted to leave a message. Richardson gave his phone number. His call was not returned.
This morning, Richardson called again. He received a prerecorded message saying “this number is not in service.”
PJ Media is aware that the number was in service as the line to the director’s office for several years prior to Richardson’s calls.
Today, PJ Media is forwarding this information over to Darrell Issa, along with some suggested questions to ask of the Obama administration:
— Why were we told Kevin O’Reilly was “unavailable” if he was employed in a position that has always been open to media, and indeed was easily reached by PJ Media?
— Why did Kevin O’Reilly suddenly get sent to Iraq for the Director, INL-Iraq position when another employee was widely considered the most-qualified person for the job?
— Now that we know he is in the Director, INL-Iraq position and not in a position ever considered “unreachable,” when will you be sending him to Washington to testify?
The committee’s interest in Kevin O’Reilly stems from documents the White House released last month on September 30 – a late afternoon “Friday document dump.” From Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting on the documents:
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.
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.'”
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.
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?”
The White House counsel who produced the documents stated that some records were not included because of “significant confidentiality interests.”
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.