U.S.A. –(Ammoland.com)- Information continues to trickle out resulting from a lawsuit trying to ascertain what the State Department under Hillary Clinton knew and did at the time about Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking.” State’s Freedom of Information Act Litigation and Appeals section submitted a 120-page new production of documents on Friday.
A FOIA request was filed two years ago by attorney Stephen Stamboulieh on behalf of this correspondent and Kent Terry, brother of slain Border patrol Agent Brian Terry. The purpose was to explore areas that have been left largely untouched by official inquiries from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General.
Of particular interest:
Did State under Hillary Clinton turn a deliberate blind eye to Arms Export Control Act violations or did it sanction “gunwalking” to Mexico? The law doesn’t apply only to those doing the “gunwalking,” but also to those who “induce” or “willfully cause” offenses.
Why did the Obama administration’s White House Counsel go to extraordinary lengths to shield its National Security Council North American Affairs Director Kevin O’Reilly– the man ATF’s Phoenix Special Agent in Charge sent related information to with the instruction “You didn’t get this from me” – from House Oversight scrutiny?
No one else is asking these questions, yet they could go to the heart of both the question of crimes and the question of cover-ups.
Stonewalling and withholding of information required a lawsuit to be filed. State’s initial response pointed to more concealment of information and avoidance of the issues. A subsequent production, reported here in July, revealed internal State discussion on Arms Export Control Act legality of Fast and Furious, and showed O’Reilly included in communications for expanding border state gun reporting requirements (something implemented by the Obama administration).
Friday’s production continues with the trickling of some related information buried inside nonresponsive and unrelated documents. It nonetheless offers new insights that appear to corroborate and justify our instincts and our questions. You just have to scroll through it and hunt for what’s relevant.
The first “hit” is a March 2011 letter for the Secretary (Hillary) giving an overview on Fast and Furious and the “allegations” of “gunwalking” which later were borne out. Of significance is the claim by the Mexican government that “it had no knowledge that weapons were being smuggled into Mexico under any program.” That fits with information told by whistleblowers to me and colleague Mike Vanderboegh over two months earlier that:
“The ATF office in Mexico was denied permission to share this information with their Mexican counterparts. Believing this was wrong, they went over the heads of the Phoenix office and requested permission directly from headquarters in DC. The higher-ups sided with the Phoenix decision to withhold the information from Mexican authorities.”
As a side note, it’s more than a little ironic the State memo makes a point to emphasize “The nexus of concerns about weapons underscores the traditionally strong Mexican nationalist sentiment and hyper-sensitivity to any perceived infringement of Mexican sovereignty.” Tell that to the officials making sure the U.S. keeps its border open to service their goals.
Next in relevance is a “decontrolled confidential” document titled “Operation Fast and Furious: Separating Myth from Fact.” Unfortunately, that will remain a mystery for now, as many sections have been redacted in their entirety.
The production then goes through multiple pages of completely unrelated information until page 36, where we see that Fast and Furious provided “easy fodder for anti-U.S. rhetoric during political campaigns,” and significantly, that, per the Mexican government, “U.S. agencies never operate in Mexico on their own.”
The next “hit” is on page 40, part of the “P Classified Daily Activity Report” for August 1, 2012, in response to House Oversight’s first fast and Furious report:
“DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the report ‘reiterates many of the distortions and now-debunked conspiracy theories that Rep. Issa has been advancing for a year and a half, including the fiction that the flawed tactics used in Fast and Furious were somehow the brainchild of the current administration as opposed to the reality that the pattern of flawed tactics dates back to 2006 and the prior administration.”
That’s classic Holder flunky-speak. Schmaler is the functionary that coordinated DOJ talking points with Media Matters, even going so far as to pitch ideas. She also provided cover for her boss after he was found to be in contempt of Congress, calling a request for the District of Columbia Bar to investigate that as “specious and frivolous.”
So it’s no surprise she was also a leading voice in attempting to conflate Operation Fast and Furious with earlier efforts, such as Operation Wide Receiver. The big difference: Per Mike Detty, the confidential informant at the heart of Wide Receiver:
“It had nothing to do with Bush or even DOJ.”
Back to the State Department production, page 56 has a December 2011 reply letter to Rep. Connie Mack’s inquiry (see page 59) asking about State’s knowledge of Fast and Furious, and correctly pointing out that without authorization, ATF “appears to have violated” International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
“As Secretary Clinton testified on October 27, no records have been identified indicating Department knowledge of the operation prior to the release of public reports.”
If true, ATF/DOJ officials went rogue and violated ITAR. If not true…
Each “willful violation” upon conviction “shall” result in up to a million dollar fine and long term imprisonment, and U.S. Code further includes provisions for “principals” who “induce” or “willfully cause” offenses, so presumably those who did not physically walk guns but nonetheless induced lawbreaking could be in for a world of hurt if caught.
So even if Clinton had been kept in the dark (and that has not been definitively established), the question remains why State did not pursue violations by DOJ – and who was involved in making (ordering) that outcome.
The production then goes though pages of nothing relevant until page 79, when it outlines talking points to give the media “if pressed on ‘Fast and Furious.’” Unsurprisingly, there’s nothing there not written to provide self-serving cover for the media to parrot.
It picks up on topic again on page 92, again basically repeating administration media talking points. Still, one assurance stands out:
“In accordance with Mexican Law, the U.S. Government does not carry out law enforcement operations in Mexico. That is a job for Mexican authorities.”
That makes fair the question “Why let guns walk? Assuming everyone else was being truthful, why was there no coordination with State or with Mexican authorities?”
Page 112 brings up a name tied in with gunwalking, then-Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer. It also points to an ATF-monitored grenade operation out of Yuma where the target under intermittent surveillance crossed the Mexican border without being detained or followed, and also a “second case” involving 250 firearms smuggled into the country.
Other names surface in the production, Gary Grindler, formerly Lanny Breuer’s deputy and then Eric Holder’s chief of staff, and Cheryl Mills, “deputy White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton … Senior Adviser and Counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign [and] Counselor and Chief of Staff to Hillary Clinton during her whole tenure as United States Secretary of State.”
That may be interesting, but it’s not unexpected that team players are going to be involved in team activities, and the focus needs to remain where it has been since the initial FOIA request was filed:
What did Hillary know and when did she know it? If she found out about Fast and Furious after the fact, why have DOJ/ATF principals been allowed to skate without ITAR scrutiny? And when is someone at House Oversight or Senate Judiciary going to subpoena Kevin O’Reilly and find out what his tie-in was – under oath?
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.
In addition to being a field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine and associate editor for Oath Keepers, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.