The ATF agent who oversaw Operation Fast and Furious now says his testimony to Congress “lacked clarity and completeness,” Fox News reports:
“After taking time to reflect and review my testimony from the hearing on July 26, 2011, I realize I could have given clearer, more complete and more direct responses to some questions,” former Special Agent in Charge William Newell said in a 12-page document submitted to the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee and obtained by Fox News.
In other words, Newell previously lied:
In a “supplemental statement,” Newell insisted agents did not knowingly allow thousands of weapons to reach criminal hands. Any concerns raised over the program were never voiced to appropriate authorities, he said, and only once did higher-ups tell agents not to arrest a suspect — when the safety of the agents was in jeopardy.
“Rather than conduct any enforcement actions, we took notes, we recorded observations, tracked movements of these individuals, wrote reports, nothing more. Knowing all the while that just days after these purchases, the guns we saw these individuals buy would begin turning up at crime scenes in the U.S. and Mexico. And yet we still did nothing,” says John Dodson, ATF Special Agent.
In the filing Wednesday, Newell said any mistakes were “unintentional errors of omission” rooted in, among other things, “the laws we have at our disposal.”
Meanwhile, one of the cooperating gun shop owners — Andre Howard, who ran the Lone Wolf Trading Company – was apparently concerned about the operation and secretly recorded conversations with ATF Agent Hope MacAllister. Two of the weapons Howard sold turned up just days later at the scene of the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, according to CBS News:
Among other things, Howard and MacAllister expressed concerns about ATF Special Agent John Dodson, who by that point had gone public about “Fast and Furious” in an exclusive interview with CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
The transcripts are damning, as MacAllister suggests the FBI is in real trouble:
Dealer: But you have got to put the word out there to all the departments tell the f****ing FBI shut the f*** up. (whispering)
Agent: FBI’s got their own problems, trust me.
Dealer: I know, I hear.
Agent: They’ve got their own problems.
Agent: If anybody’s gonna get sued it’s gonna be the FBI, in my opinion.
It’s not an ATF agent who utters those magical words, it’s the Arizona gun dealer who was working with the ATF on Fast & Furious. He utters them to an ATF agent, though, to which she replies with a cryptic “mm-hmm.” Callousness — or strategy?
In the tapes, Howard seems arrogant. Howard’s lawyer claims this was a strategy to cover his own backside:
“He became very suspicious and in his own defense would tape key conversations with Ms. MacAllister and try to get her to make admissions about the truth of the matter,” said Dallas attorney Larry Gaydos. “Andre was trying to get her to admit that indeed they let guns go to Mexico.”
This exchange is particularly damning, because one would expect MacAllister to go ballistic upon hearing someone suggest the death of a fellow federal law enforcement agent — the result of an operation in which she was intimately involved — was “collateral damage.” That she did not speaks to a problem within ATF.
It would appear, however, that things are finally beginning to break loose with this case.
The tapes were apparently released to the U.S. Attorney’s office by Justice Department Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar, a move which sent the two main investigators in the case — Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Chuck Grassley, (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — around the metaphorical bend:
“Each of these disclosures undermines our ability to assess the candor of witnesses in our investigation and thus obstructs it,” they wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. “Moreover, your decision to immediately disclose the recordings to those you are investigating creates at least the appearance, if not more, that your inquiry is not sufficiently objective and independent.
“It appears that you did not consider the significant harm that providing these recordings to the very individuals under investigation could cause to either our inquiry or your own. You did not consult with us about the recordings even though the congressional inquiry and reactions to it are discussed at length.”
Issa complained in a conference call that “there is ongoing cover-up of a pattern of wrongdoing that can’t be explained by any ordinary people [who tried] to do the right thing but made a mistake.”
The Obama administration has been slow to hand over documents to Issa’s committee, and when they have, they’ve been heavily redacted.
“Even though I have subpoena ability, I don’t have the ability to lock people up for contempt until they fess up and give us what we want,” Issa said.
A special prosecutor would have such powers, and would be independent of the government agencies that were responsible for creating and attempting to cover up details of the program.
Indeed, as more details of this case come to light, the deeper and darker it seems to get. An independent prosecutor at this point would seem to be the only way to find out just how deep of a hole DOJ and ATF have dug, and who is in it.