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Fast and Furious Official No Longer Going to Mexico as Attache; Mexican Govt. Asks for Transcripts of His Testimony

William Newell

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

William Newell, who headed ATF’s Phoenix Division during the controversial operation dubbed Fast and Furious, won’t be going to Mexico as ATF’s attache after all.

The agency has decided to to nix that assignment before he even heads south. Instead, he’s been named special assistant to the ATF Assistant Director for the Office of Management in Washington.

The reassignment comes at a time the Mexican Justice Department known as the PGR is reportedly conducting a criminal probe into the Fast and Furious Operation.  It has also requested transcripts of Newell’s recent testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Concern had surfaced recently within ATF that the Mexican government might arrest Newell if he came down there as the attache.

Lydia Antonio, a press officer for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, declined to comment for this story. An ATF official familiar with the matter confirmed the reassignment, but declined to speculate on why Newell’s Mexico City assignment was changed.

The move to keep Newell in Washington is direct turn about for the agency, which up until recently, had insisted that Newell was  still going to Mexico City as the ATF attache even as the  Mexican government fumed over Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers or middlemen, with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. Some of the guns have surfaced at crime scenes.

ATF first announced internally last Fall that Newell, who is fluent in Spanish, would become the new attache in Mexico City. But after the controversy broke over Fast and Furious, ATF delayed his departure to Mexico and sent him on a detour to Washington to help Congressional investigators and the Inspector General investigate the faulty Fast and Furious operation.

Agents around the country, according to one person, were angry over Newell’s testimony at a Congressional hearing last month when he denied that ATF let guns walk.  During his testimony, he admitted there had been some mistakes, but essentially defended the operation.

In a phone interview Thursday with ticklethewire.com, Newell’s attorney Paul Pelletier of Washington, a former federal prosecutor,  commented on  Newell’s  job change by saying:  “Going to Mexico, given the way his public service has been unfairly portrayed, would not be prudent.”

But Pelletier said Newell has been extremely dedicated to fighting gun trafficking to Mexico.

“Bill’s career with the ATF has been mostly on the Southwest border and he’s made his career literally preventing guns from going to Mexico” he said. “That’s what his career has been based on. He’s done a lot. He’s been a strong advocate of stopping the flow of guns into Mexico.”

He said  Newell volunteered to take his family to Mexico City to take on a dangerous assignment so he could continue addressing the problem.

“The public theater has not been fair to him and has not been fair to ATF.”

Pelletier also noted that Newell was instrumental in getting a member of the Mexican Justice Department stationed in the Phoenix Division.

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