"Hey, baby, let's go to Mexico."
On Monday, 13 December 2010, the Washington Post ran a story by Sari Horwitz and James V. Grimaldi entitled "U.S. gun dealers with the most firearms traced over the past four years." It began:
A decade ago, politicians and the press routinely reported on gun stores across the nation that had the most traces for firearms recovered by police. In 2003, under pressure from the gun lobby, Congress passed a law that hid from public view the government database that contained the gun tracing information.
The Washington Post has obtained the names of the gun dealers nationwide with the most traces over the past four years. In addition, The Post has uncovered the names of the dealers, all from border states, with the most traces from guns recovered in Mexico over the past two years.
In these paragraphs, Grimaldi and Horwitz admit up front that their sources have violated federal law, called the Tiahrt Amendment. We now know who at least one of those federal sources that the Washington Post used for that story was -- William "Gunwalker Bill" Newell, Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division.
In a recording of a telephone conversation obtained by Sipsey Street Irregulars, Newell, who refers to himself as "the big dog" in Phoenix is overheard talking to a Federal Firearms Licensee, Mike Detty, owner of Mad Dawg Global Marketing and a confidential informant for the Tuscon ATF office, about a variety of subjects, including the Washington Post story and Operation Wide Receiver, in which Detty played an integral part.
Although the audio file of the conversation is not dated, comparing internal evidence in the conversation with the references to the Washington Post article, it likely took place on 13 or 14 December 2010. Some relevant excerpts:
Detty: I got a call from Sari Horwitz at the Washington Post.
Newell: Oh, yeah, I saw that article.
Detty: And she wanted my comments and one of the things that she said to me, she said . . . I said, 'You know Sari I don't feel comfortable talking to you at least until I talk to somebody at ATF and see what, kinda, what they want me to do. Chances are that they won't want me to comment at all.' And she said, 'well we've already talked to, uh, ATF in Phoenix,' and I said, 'Well, who did you talk to?' and she said 'Well, we talked to the SAC Bill Newell there, and he told us that you're the one that made contact and that you've been cooperating with ATF. . .'
Newell: No. She's . . . she's . . . she's . . . she's playing the old . . . she's a typical reporter playing the old, uh . . . the old, uh, you know, dropping names, um, no, yeah, he did come to talk to us and what they did is what they did for that story . . . I saw that story today and what they did is that they pull court records, and, you know, there's nothing we can do for them, especially in Arizona and places like Arizona they have open court records and in the federal system once the court records are, you know, once the federal and state court records are filed . . . you know they spent a year doing that story, they go out and they look at all the different court records. I'm sorry she called you, it . . . it . . . it's never my intention for her to call anybody.
Detty: No, no, no, it's just that it . . . it took me off guard and for her to say, 'Well, yeah, you know he told us that you were cooperating' and, and, uh . . .
Newell: No, that's wrong. She's . . . you know, she . . . what, what I said and what she was referring to is she (unintelligible) people from headquarters (unintelligible) and what I said was 99 percent of our gun dealers in the United States cooperate with us . . . she . . . she tried to do the same thing with me. She talked to several SACs on the border. It's typical with the reporters, they'll do this. They'll try to say, 'Well, aren't the gun dealers responsible?' I said, 'listen, if a gun dealer knowingly allows certain things to occur without any ATF oversight, yeah." I said 'but 99 percent of our gun dealers are cooperative. They call us, when, you know, there is something illegal going on or about to go on.' And I said, 'without that assistance, you know, we couldn't make the cases we make for the most part. So that's what she's referring to. I would never, never . . . I mean, this is the first time in 22 years I ever gotten a call like this. You know, she obviously played, she obviously played that very well, which I'm sorry that she did because that was not the . . . you have no obligation to talk to her at all. If a reporter ever calls you, you're under no obligation to talk to her at all.
Detty: Well, again, you know she made it sound like, you know this was being talked about and, 'oh yeah, they won't have a problem with it because I talked to this guy,' and, and I left it at that, and what I told was, I said 'Look, you know, um, whether these guys think I set 'em up or not, um, or whether I'm a greedy gun dealer that doesn't care about what guns are going south,' I said, 'either way you print that, I'm the loser,' and I said, 'Don't attach my name to anything, and don't, um, don't quote me on anything, um. 'cause it'll come back to you.' So today, happily, I was glad to see that my name, even my corporate name, was not mentioned in her article. . .
Newell blaming "court records" for disclosure of Detty's involvement in straw man sales was a red herring. In the Grimaldi-Horwitz story there are only four mentions of court records. Indeed, the bulk of the story involves lists of supposed "bad guy" gun dealers derived from the illegally-leaked trace data -- which could only have come from the ATF -- and their reactions to being listed on the Washington Post's illegal list.
One of them was Carter's Country in Houston, who immediately hired Dick DeGuerin to defend them against the slander. Another was Lone Wolf Trading Company:
Lone Wolf Trading Co. in Glendale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, is ranked eighth on the list with about 1,515 firearms traced. Lone Wolf sits in a strip mall, next to Spa Tahiti. Inside, model airplanes hang from the ceiling and the heads of animals adorn the walls. A sign behind the cash register advertised AK-47s for $499.
Lone Wolf has jumped from No. 61 on the 2004 list.
Last year, 12 people were indicted on charges of making false statements in order to buy 17 AK-47-type rifles headed to Mexico. The guns were purchased from seven stores, including Lone Wolf.
Owner Andre Howard could not be reached for comment. ATF officials said they have no indication that Lone Wolf is doing anything wrong or illegal.
Of course not. They're hardly likely to draw attention to their principle source for Fast and Furious weapons going to the Mexican cartels.
Other sources who were interviewed by the Washington Post tell Sipsey Street that they were told by Horwitz and Grimaldi that the ATF headquarters was cooperating with the story. It is not against the law to publish a leak from ATF about trace data. It IS a federal crime for ATF personnel to leak trace data to a media outlet. Obviously the political interests of ATF headquarters and the Department of Justice coincided with the Washington Post's agenda in doing the story based on illegally-leaked data.
In the conversation Newell evinces a great deal of knowledge about the story and indicates that ATF headquarters was on the line when he he talked to Horwitz. It would be interesting to me to subject this tape to voice stress analysis and find out where and about what Newell is lying. Where he begins to stammer is a clue.
Newell: I'm sorry that that reporter called you because she called several people and, you know, there's like four or five reporters that worked on this thing including a reporter in Mexico and they went out and they talked to a hundred people (unintelligible) they talked to a ton of people, they went through court records left and right and you're not the only gun dealer that they called and I said, 'listen,' I said, "I can't stop them from calling' and I said, I told another guy, I said, "You're under no obligation to say anything to these people.' I mean, if they want, if they start say 'no comment' and hang up the phone, I mean, you know, you're under no obligation. If you want to make a comment, then, hey, make a comment, knock yourself out. But if you notice in that story it says . . . she talked to me on the phone for about an hour hour which was a three way call to one in our headquarters and I . . . over and over again I said to all these reporters, I said, 'Listen, most of our great information on firearms trafficking comes from cooperative dealers who don't want a bad name associated with then and that's why we work with the NSSF who do all these campaigns' and so I said, "So, yeah, there are bad dealers. . . there's bad everything. We have bad ATF agents who get caught up doing things they shouldn't do and it happens. It's human nature. . .'
Detty: Uh, huh.
Newell: And I said ninety nine percent of our dealers are cooperative people who give us information and really are under no obligation to do so, but we appreciate when they do.' And of course, I don't know . . . there's some of that in there but of course they kinda leave that stuff off to the side because that doesn't . . . that's not juicy, you know?
Newell: But, um, I . . .
Detty: And to be honest with you I'd love for them to know the full story because, um, I'm not a bad guy and I've really gone out of my way to, to help you guys . . . I mean I've brought you some good cases, and as a result there's a whole bunch . . . I think probably right now, not counting anything from Wide Receiver, over twenty people in prison right now that deserve to be there. Um, and I would love for that story to be told, and there's just no good way to do that without putting me at risk. . .
Toward the end of the conversation, Detty gets around to asking about why Wide Receiver hasn't produced any prosecutions:
Detty: "You know, I was just curious with, uh, with Wide Receiver, you know, three years ago, I think, the U.S. Attorney here told me they were planning on arresting something like forty people and its my understanding, I think it was, November 10th or November 9th, they made six arrests here in Tucson.
Detty: But I haven't seen. . . I check the website daily and I haven't seen a press release regarding that. Is there a reason that you're waiting on that or hoping to make more arrests?
Newell: Yeah, there'll be . . . uh, we're waiting. There's some other stuff going on, uh, that's part of that, and so it'll be a wait, it'll be a bit here. Probably another month or so.
Detty: I was just curious because I, well, I mean, all the time and effort and man hours that went into that one case and I think we had at least two or three air surveillances from my house and there was the 48-hour surveillance all the way out to the border and the 50 .38 Supers and (unintelligible) and all that nonsense . . .
Detty: That uh . . .
Detty: That would be a case that you would be able to stand up and hold up the headline and say 'look what we did' . . .
Newell: Right. Exactly. Exactly. And, and we plan on doing that, its just the matter that right now there's another thing going on that, if we did that right now we'd would mess that other deal up, so . . .
Detty: Gotcha. Okay.
"There's another thing going on."
We now know that the other thing was Fast and Furious.
And shortly after this phone conversation -- within hours maybe, within days certainly -- Brian Terry encountered the muzzle end of a Fast and Furious Kalashnikov in Peck Canyon.
Addendum: Just before I put this article up this morning, I received this comment from Mike Detty:
I looked at your draft this morning and it is 100% accurate.
I am convinced that Sari Horwitz was accurate when she said that Bill Newell gave her my name as someone who was cooperating with ATF on Wide Receiver. To my knowledge, at this time, there was no other way she could have found my name in association with this case unless she got it from Newell or another ATF agent. It really didn't surprise me since I was exposed as the CI on every other case I worked for ATF.
I first heard of Fast & Furious back in spring of 2010 - though its code name was not mentioned. A field agent told me, "I have no idea on why they are letting so many guns go to Mexico or what they are hoping to do with the information but it makes your case look like small fry," he said referring to the 450 guns that were allowed to walk over the border in Wide Receiver.
Addendum: Some folks are having technical problems accessing the audio file of the entire conversation posted at David's site. When we get those worked out, I will post a notice here and independently so you will be able to verify the transcript.
Finally, I think it is important to note for the record that I did not get the tape from Mike Detty, nor from his attorney, nor from any of his friends. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to thank the Dogtown Rangers, Wiredog Platoon, Communications Intercept Section, SSGT Ralph Aloysius Bear, commanding. (Ralph is Ramsey's first cousin on his daddy's side.) ;-)