In the face of a mountain of evidence and contrary testimony by his fellow agents, the man who implemented the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' bungled Fast and Furious operation repeatedly denied that the program let guns flow into Mexico, where they were acquired by drug kingpins.
“We did not let guns walk," the former ATF agent in charge of the Phoenix field office, William Newell said.
Newell made the same claim in various ways on a number of occasions, under questioning from frustrated members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who shook their heads and at times laughed in disbelief.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, even cited a January 2010 memo from Newell's office that read, "currently our strategy is to allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place ... in order to further the investigation and allow for the identification of additional co-conspirators who would continue to operate and illegally traffic firearms to Mexican [Drug Trafficking Organizations]."
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., described Newell as a "paid non-answerer." He told Newell, “You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.
Also directly contradicting Newell was Carlos Canino, the ATF's acting atache in Mexico, who said that letting guns "walk" was indeed a central component of the operation. He said that as 22-year veteran of the agency, it was "inconceivable" that they would allow this to happen.
It was like the ATF took its book of best practices and put it in the shredder, Canino explained, demonstrating by lifting a stack of paper.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., asked what the ATF was intending to accomplish through the program. Newell said that they intended to disrupt Mexican drug cartels. Gowdy followed up by asking how they could do anything once they tracked down the kingpins without being able to extradite them. Newell then claimed that they intended to share the information with Mexican law enforcement to allow them to act. However, the ATF chose to keep Mexican authorities completely in the dark about Operation Fast and Furious.