ATF Death Watch 35: The Reluctant Attache


Gosh, it seemed like such a good idea at the time. Last October, the ATF made a point of announcing they’d be sending William Newell, their fair-haired-boy head of the Phoenix office, to Mexico City as the agency’s attaché there. Except a funny thing happened on the way to the City of Palaces…

It’s too bad, really. He was the perfect choice for the gig. Newell habla español muy bien. And he’d had years of experience contending with the cartels.

Only one problem. As head of the Phoenix office, Newell was also on the business end of running Fast and Furious. In fact, he was up to his pencil-neck in it.

And, strangely enough, some in the Mexican government – at least those not fully complicit in the whole program to begin with – would love to get their hands on one of those directly responsible for sending the very guns to the cartels that were used to murder hundreds of their citizens. So there’s at least a good possibility that if Newell actually does set foot south of the border, he could be arrested and tried as an accessory to murder.

Which goes a long way toward explaining why, nine months after the announcement, Newell’s still safely tucked away in Washington, as far from the warm embrace of the federales as possible.

That’s not what ATF’s saying, though. Newell’s just busy, you see.

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.”

There’s just so much to do when you’re trying to manage a scandal that’s coming to rival Watergate and Iran Contra.

But given the apparent anger about the federally facilitated southbound iron river, it makes you wonder if ATF has anyone at all they’d risk sending down Mexico way. If I were an ATF muckety-muck, I don’t think I’d plan that family trip to Punta Cana any time soon.