Obama administration deemed border security murders as an acceptable risk
Documents recently uncovered from Border Patrol agents highlight the Obama administration’s failure to heed multiple warnings from Border Patrol, local law enforcement, activist groups and border region ranchers that restlessly warned government officials that proposed wilderness reserves would lead to national security breaches and murder.
“We now have further evidence that the Obama administration at every level thinks the border situation is entirely acceptable and they lack full border enforcement security within designated wilderness areas that risks our border patrol agents and law enforcement deputies safety,” said outspoken Pinal county Sheriff Paul Babeu.
Emails, meetings and videotapes reveal the administration was aware of national security issues, agent safety issues, bounties placed on Border Patrol agents by drug cartels, and the trafficking of drugs and humans. The administration was told, they saw it and they acknowledged it, and yet, they moved forward. As a result of their “acceptable risk” policy, Border Patrol agents Brian Terry and Nicolas Ivie were murdered. Yesterday, Cochise County Sheriff spokesperson Carol Capas confirmed agent Ivie was murdered on federal land.
The emails, memo’s and white papers contained serious allegations that national security would be hampered in the wilderness areas along the southern border. There are supporting documents and news reports confirming drug cartels “bounty program” that incentivized smugglers to kill agents along the border.
Emails (FOIAs from NAFBPO), despite extensive government redacting, confirm the administration began talks regarding the expansion and creation of wilderness areas, these proposed new designations went through Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, Department of Interior, Congress and Senate committees. All the agencies were advised of the national security implications and the emails predate Agent Terry’s December 2010 murder.
Email exchanges between agencies include Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar, Chief of U.S. Border Patrol, Michael Fisher, Congressman Udall, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Commissioner of CBP and former drug czar, Alan Bersin, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as the Chamber of Commerce.
The brouhaha behind the FOIAed emails
The brouhaha began with Democrat Senator Bingaman’s S.1689 legislation that sought to expand wilderness areas along the U.S./Mexico border. An example of a memo dated May 10, 2010 between Bingaman’s office and Border Patrol discussed the need for “concessions to law enforcement in S.1689” regarding maps and written impacts on patrolling the border.
Also dated the same day is a “memo with Bingaman press release- that noted the (Obama) administration supported this bill.”
Moving along to May 12, 2010 memos from Border Patrol in Tucson and Albuquerque want info on “snakes in the grass,” DHS talking points and a copy of the talk on border tours.”
Particularly concerning, on May 18, 2010 “Santa Teresa (BP) Office is aware of problems of WSA/WA (wilderness areas). These environmental protections (WA) severely limit BP’s (Border Patrol) ability to carry out its National Security Mission along the international border and surrounding area.” The memo also redacted some changes before it went on to explain, “The wilderness areas has (sic) strict access requirements and covers a large area where enforcement capabilities are limited.”
Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos said the wilderness designation would “hamstring effective law enforcement” and Hidalgo County Sheriff Saturnino Madero found it “highly inadvisable” to place such restrictions on his officers.
One of the final emails on June 18, 2010 to Border Patrol was “asking what White House tour should see along the four Border States? And what are the five top challenges.”
In July of 2010, agencies involved with S.1689 and widening the range of wilderness preserves along the southern border hit a bump in the road and revealed, “sit back on it, it is a very sensitive issue of late.”
Unfortunately the questionable program of limiting Border Patrol access to “wilderness preserves” continued and six months later Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in a shootout by “rip crews” in an Arizona desert. Terry was also following orders stemming from a nonsensical memo from DHS’s Janet Napolitano asking agents to use less than lethal force – rubber bullets – against armed traffickers.
It now appears that DHS didn’t learn its lesson from agent Terry’s death.
Consistent throughout the 500+ pages of emails are repeated warnings from Border Patrol regarding national security and the opposing narrative that the Obama administration was more concerned with protecting the wilderness zones, than agents in the field. Dona Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison said it would be “the height of folly to place such restrictions on law enforcement in this border area.”
One Border Patrol agent’s comment seemed particularly straightforward, “Do you really think that the coyotes (human traffickers) or drug cartels are going to read a little sign in English/Spanish declaring it is unlawful to enter a federal preserve? No. That means one thing to these banditos, Border Patrol will not be patrolling.” This statement is whispered by a majority of agents and local law enforcement in the field.
“It should not be a surprise that that we have had four Arizona border patrol agents murdered in the last two years and the Obama administration, even some members of the media, do not want us to talk about this (issue) and say we make this political,” Babeu stated. “These are deaths of our heroes!”
The Sheriff responds passionately about the treatment Arizona has garnered by the media and Obama administration. “All law enforcement officials risk their lives in Arizona.” However, he places the recent rash of murders by cartel thugs squarely on the Obama administration, and Janet Napolitano, former Arizona governor and current Secretary at DHS. “The four border states risk their lives to a more significant degree than we need to because of the failures of this administration and bureaucrats who make decisions thousands of miles away without our safety and security in mind. Contrary to Janet Napolitano’s proclamations that the border is more secure than ever, last year in October we had the largest drug bust in Arizona history with “operation pipeline express” that netted nearly $3 billion in product, money and weapons that we seized from the Sinaloa drug traffickers.”
According to the Sheriff and a story this reporter covered (story here) multiple agencies worked jointly to take marijuana, black tar heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines from 76 Sinaloa cartel individuals operating 70 miles north of the Mexican border. Officers’ also recovered 108 weapons, two came from Operation Fast and Furious a national program that let guns walk. “These were not handguns that our police and sheriffs carry, these were scoped rifles and AK-47s, semi automatic weapons. These are all prohibited processors for violent criminals from a foreign country and they think they own the place.”
The recent revelation of Fast and Furious high-powered weapons returning to the U.S. with drug traffickers is the gift that keeps on giving. “So now we have more evidence that these weapons our own government facilitated to the cartels, to be used for fighting, have now been brought back into the United States for use by these felons on our country, “ Babeu lamented.
Emails say tricky language won’t secure the border
No evidence was found to support claims by sponsors of the bill that many field agents had been interviewed and had stated that wilderness restrictions on the border would “be no problem.”
A document dated May 4, 2010 that originated in the El Paso BP Sector, inadvertently escaped some redaction: “If completely realized, the restrictions of the WD (wilderness) will re-define the very nature of how the objectives and elements of the National Strategy are carried out in pursuit of gaining operational control of our nation’s borders.”
Another example was found in a February 10, 2010 email, “Santa Teresa concept of operations. The mission is preventing terrorist and terrorist weapons from entering the US. We operate under the MOU, but the station needs the ability to patrol within the areas (WA) with less restrictions.” Two weeks later a request for Border Patrol statistics and apprehensions, narcotic seizures and general activity along border trails were requested from the Senator’s office.
Contents of the emails concluded that the main issue of wilderness land designations on the border had little to do with national security and public safety. It was driven almost exclusively by political concerns.
In an official CBP letter dated June 1, 2010, CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin (whose March 27, 2010 Easter recess appointment expired at the end of 2011 because he could not get the Senate approval), “expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Senator Bingaman for allowing Border Patrol access to a single east-west road adjacent to the border, authority for hot pursuit of suspects, allowing low level over flights, and for a strip of land five (5) miles wide within which to patrol the US/Mexico border. His letter concludes with the observations that the restrictive language of S.1689 should be a model for future consideration of wilderness designation along the border.”
It was conveniently not noted that the road access was only five miles from the border, that low level flights were authorized, (but not landing), that law enforcement efforts and border security activities could only be conducted in accordance with section 4(c) of the wilderness act.
Leading up to a June 2010 meeting, government officials placed several gag orders to quell media coverage as well as leading opposition groups. The gag order was directed to the office of Border Patrol on May 28, 2010, following a letter to a local news agency by a Mr. Jerry Schickedanz relating the conflict between Brandemuehl and the PIO El Paso Sector. A subsequent inquiry from a graduate student from University of Arizona concerning cooperation between land managers and the Border Patrol caused Headquarters, Border Patrol to instruct the El Paso Sector to “sit back on it.” It is a very sensitive issue of late. This typical gag order instructed that all wilderness questions be forwarded directly to CBP.
More concern for open borders than agent’s lives
The Commissioner is the highest level of authority in the CBP chain of command. This public document conclusively establishes that Bersin favored environmental considerations over national security and public safety. “On Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, Alan Bersin, told a gathering of the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C.: ‘The Guatemalan border with Chiapas is now our southern border,’” written by a fellow Examiner.
This reporter has videotape from 2010 clearly authenticating the higher-ups knew the deadly conditions waiting border agents. A direct question posed to Mr. Bersin in July of 2010, acknowledges border agents had bounties placed on their lives and that CBP was doing everything to protect agents in the field. This was well before the murder of Border Patrol agents Terry and Ivie. “There has been a renewed threat to kill a Border Patrol agent along the border,” Bersin told a roomful of TV cameras. The bounty on agents was issued in the “past two weeks,” according to BP sources.
Border Patrol agents are taking the new threat very seriously. CBP Commissioner Bersin also confirmed the threat that a $250,000 bounty has been placed on law enforcement for a kidnapped or killed agent along the southern border.”
Sheriff Babeu corroborates those statements; “Bersin and other high level cabinet members acknowledged that there are bounties placed on federal and even local law enforcement members by the drug cartels and what we have seen in Pinal County, which is 70 miles north of the border. This continuation is proof of the threat that illegal immigration and drug smuggling have not subsided.”
So why was there little outcry from this obvious threat from drug cartels? Operation Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal documented federal policy that many agents heeded, “you talk about it and you lose your job- retaliation.”
“The responsibility for securing this international border is the core primary responsibility of the United States government and I believe the federal government has failed to do that,” Sheriff Babeu said. “They have failed to adequately protect the citizens of my county and my state. That threat to our country is not just the volumes of illegals and drug cartels, but more importantly, the threat that is posed when people of countries of interest cross our borders. These people harbor or sponsor terrorism and are not friendly to the United States.”
The primary concern for agents is, of course, the bounties placed on their lives for patrolling the border. Justice for murdered agents is extraordinarily slow; the Terry family is still waiting for his murder to reach a trial and government officials to be held accountable. When it was discovered that the New Orleans Saints football team coaches put bounties on the heads of opposing players, the league held the coaches responsible and they were rightly disciplined.
“Leadership failed and everything I’ve learned as a rank-and-file police officer, Army private and field grade officer; whoever’s in charge is responsible in the end. Whether he knew it or whether he should have known, Eric Holder (the nation’s top cop at Main Justice) created an environment and a dynamic that resulted in the murder of not only one agent that we can prove, but also hundreds of Mexicans have been killed with Fast and Furious weapons. This guy was not held accountable; he has not resigned so he should be fired. I believe he, and others in the government, should be held accountable even criminally,” Sheriff Babeu concluded.
As of press time, law enforcement access to wilderness areas remains limited.
Check for further details as the story is still breaking: http://www.examiner.com/article/breaking-news-border-patrol-agent-murdered-arizona.
For more stories: http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak
*This story is dedicated to the many federal and local law enforcement officers that dedicate their lives to the protection of the nation’s porous borders; especially those who have given their lives protecting America’s rule of law.
**This reporter would like to thank all those who dare to trust the media and the members of NAFBPO who gave their time and money to FOIA the revealing emails contained in this article.
***The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers (NAFBPO) wish to gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the following persons who provided the expert analysis and conclusions contained in this report, Mr. Frank DuBois, Mr. Jerry G. Schickedanz, PhD, Claude E. (gene) Guyant, Gene Wood and Mr. Robert Trent.
© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.