Is ATF Concerned About Sending “Fast and Furious” Official to Mexico as Attache?
Last October in Orlando, at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the heads of the ATF field offices gathered for a SAC meeting. It was there where it was announced that William Newell, head of the Phoenix office, would become the ATF’s attache to Mexico.
Newell, an up and comer in the agency, seemed like a good choice. He was fluent in Spanish or as one person said “he spoke Spanish like professor.” And he had experience dealing with the Mexican cartels.
In fact, he was helping head up a little known program at the time called “Operation Fast and Furious”, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell weapons to “straw purchasers” — all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartel.
It was a bold program and a highly ambitious one.
But months later, it became a very controversial one after word got out that some weapons were showing up at crime scenes, including in the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.
Congressional inquiries started. An Inspector General probe was launched. A media frenzy ensued.
Now, eight months after the announcement in Orlando, Newell has been holed up in Washington instead of Mexico supposedly to help the Congressional inquiries into Operation Fast and Furious. His post in Phoenix has already been filled and his assignment as ATF’s Mexican attache has been put on hold.
Word inside ATF, according to one knowledgeable person, is that some in the agency have voiced concerns about sending Newell to Mexico as an attache because the Mexican government, which is fuming over Fast and Furious, might pursue criminal charges and arrest Newell.
Fox News reported Tuesday that the Mexican government is furious about Fast and Furious and wants to extradite American officials for prosecution. Sending Newell might make that all too easy for the Mexicans.
Whether Mexico goes that far is unclear.
Nonetheless, sending Newell isn’t likely to sit well in Mexico.
But an ATF official on Friday tried to dispel any notion that Newell won’t be headed south of the border.
“As far as his assignment to Mexico City, it’s still in place but it’s been temporarily postponed so that he can assist with the Congressional inquiries and the OIG (Office of Inspector General) review,” the official told ticklethewire.com.
Newell did not respond to an email asking for comment.
When asked for comment more than a week ago, the Mexican embassy in Washington asked that ticklethewire.com submit questions in writing. There was no response.
On Friday, a spokesman did call back and left a voicemail. But the spokesman could not be reached after that.
The embassy spokesman did not immediately return the call on Tuesday for comment.
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