Emails Debunk IBD's “The White House Knew” Claim

Last night, Investor's Business Daily published an editorial which claimed that a chain of emails indicate that a White House staffer sought and received information about the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious from the ATF special agent who oversaw the initiative. According to the editorial, this proves that “the White House knew” about the operation. Unfortunately for IBD, this claim evaporated before the paper hit the newsstands after the Los Angeles Times got ahold of the emails in question and reported that they reveal nothing of the sort.

Detailing the exchange between William Newell, ATF special agent in charge of the Phoenix office, and his longtime friend Kevin O'Reilly, a National Security Council staffer, IBD wrote in typical conspiratorial fashion:

Newell sent O'Reilly the requested information with the caveat, “You didn't get this from me.”

Why was a National Security Council staffer asking about an operation that no one in the upper echelons of the administration was supposed to be aware of? We find it hard to believe it was for O'Reilly's personal amusement. Why would Newell request that he not be acknowledged as the source?


Administration officials have taken the Sgt. Schultz “we knew nothing” approach to any inquiries, only to be tripped up by their own words and actions.

Newell's email to O'Reilly is evidence that at least one person in the White House did.

After reviewing the actual email chain, LAT's Richard Serrano wrote: “The ATF's field supervisor on the Southwest border sent a series of emails last year to a top White House national security official detailing the agency's ambitious efforts to stop weapons trafficking into Mexico, but did not mention that a botched sting operation had allowed hundreds of guns to flow to drug cartels.”

Indeed, the emails show O'Reilly reaching out to Newell for information about the ATF's Gun Runner Impact Team (GRIT), a separate initiative that deployed scores of agents to Arizona and New Mexico on a short term basis. According to ATF, “GRIT special agents initiated 174 firearms trafficking-related criminal investigations and seized approximately 1,300 illegally-trafficked firearms and 71,000 rounds of ammunition, along with drugs and currency.” O'Reilly was seeking information about GRIT in order to brief White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan about the operation in preparation for a meeting with Mexican officials.

Not only do the emails include no mention of Fast and Furious, they actually detail ATF tactics very different from those employed in that operation.

Newell writes to O'Reilly that ATF and the US Attorney were on the verge of announcing “the indictment of a dozen 'straw purchase' case addressing firearms trafficking by 30 individuals.” He continues: “We finally have the USAO here on board with going after 'straw' purchasers and a making a statement, publically especially, that we will take action against those folks.” He goes on to explain that such indictments add “tremendous leverage” to ATF agents to get the straw purchasers to inform on people further up the trafficking chain.

By contrast, in Fast and Furious, rather than interdict the guns and indict the straw purchasers and try to flip them, ATF agents allowed the purchasers to pass their weapons on and tried to identify conspirators up the chain.

This is hardly the first time IBD has gotten their facts wrong on Fast and Furious in pursuit of a broader conspiracy. In this editorial, they again repeat their false claim that Attorney General Eric Holder gave a 2009 speech “taking credit for Gunrunner as well as Fast and Furious for himself and the Obama administration.” In fact, Holder only discussed the well-known Project Gunrunner in that speech, not Fast and Furious' secret tactics.

IBD has also speculated, absent any evidence whatsoever, that Fast and Furious is part of a “gun control plot” in which the Obama administration was deliberately allowing gun trafficking “in the interests of pursuing the administration's gun-control agenda.”