For antiwar groups, the President’s address to the nation was somewhat welcome news; the ever-increasing unpopularity of the war opened the door to common sense. On the other hand, critics called Obama’s speech a road map for insurgents to plan their takeover of the Afghan government.
The dilemma for commanders on the ground centers on the classification of the 10-year war. A mission change is in the works and military leaders will now shift the counterinsurgency strategy to a more stealthy counter-terrorism position.
Afghanistan’s corrupt government, lack of infrastructure and tribal tendencies have met a predictable ending- a U.S. troop departure, a small victory toppling the Taliban and killing Osama bin Laden.
General David Petraeus outlined the requirements for a successful counterinsurgency strategy in a 2006 military handbook. “As the counterinsurgent gains success, offensive and defensive operations become more in balance and eventually diminish in importance compared to stability operations.”
It has been five years since Petraeus wrote the Manual on Counterinsurgency and Afghanistan remains in the hands of corrupt leaders who provide economic and security failures for its people. Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues to swindle the American people by requesting billions of dollars for nation building; however, there has been little progress with building infrastructure in the past 10 years.
According to the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan, the foreign aid dispensed to Afghanistan amounted to $320 million each month and the monthly military tab is approximately $10 billion. Other money earmarked for the corrupt Karzai government is a $19 billion slush fund that is included in the U.S. aid package, most of it coming under the Obama Administration for its counterinsurgency approach.
America’s love affair with exporting democracy has sent the nation into an economic abyss. In the case of Afghanistan, a 2003/04, a plan hatched by Army Lt. COL Anthony Shaffer could have saved taxpayers billions of dollars. His book entitled “Operation Dark Heart,” reported that Pakistan officials were meddling in the Afghan War and were not friends of the U.S. “They were playing both sides of the war efforts,” COL Shaffer said. Had COL Shaffer’s intelligence of the Afghan War effort been heeded by military leaders at the top, U.S. troops could have shifted their tactics and avoided a troop surge.
Evidence that the Department of Defense did not want COL Shaffer’s 2003/04 plan to find its way into civilian ranks came in the form of the heavily-redacted book “Operation Dark Heart.” The tell-all book chronicled gritty details regarding Pakistan’s and U.S. complicity with insurgents.
Many lawmakers as well as, Johnny Come Lately politicians, are arguing that the Afghan War’s focus should be on Pakistan’s unsavory alliance with the Taliban and al Qaeda. By focusing on terrorist organizations, the U.S. can unleash special op teams, and reduce the number of boots on the ground.
“There cannot be a gradual drawdown of troops without a change in mission objectives,” said Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA), a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Successfully implementing a counterinsurgency strategy is near impossible without enough Marines and soldiers to see it through. On the other hand, counterterrorism operations linked to a more simplified set of objectives is sustainable with a significantly smaller force size.”
Hunter continues to explain that a drawdown is on the horizon, and the military must narrow its objectives in Afghanistan. “These objectives should consist of making sure the enemy cannot get back on its feet, strengthening the Afghan military and stabilizing Pakistan. We can do all of this with a much smaller footprint, utilizing special operations forces, intelligence gathering capability and air assets.”
Hunter contends the situation on the ground has changed and, “what might have seemed like a good strategy years or even months ago is not showing the level of success that justifies continuing the mission with such a large troop presence. The time has come for a change in strategy that begins with a departure from nation-building and counterinsurgency operations – the centerpiece of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan since Mr. Obama took office.”
Corruption fuels instability
Afghanistan’s corruption is legendary. The war-torn tribal nation provides fertile fields for training terrorists and growing poppies, is home to al Qaeda, and is where the 9/11 plotters hatched their terrorist attack on America. But sadly, in the worst kept secret in Central Asia, the U.S. condones and encourages the growing of poppies (the base ingredient for heroin and cocaine) paying billions to Taliban insurgents and warlords for convoy protection. We do so, not to keep the poor farmers happy, but to line the pockets of the Taliban, warlords, and the Karzai government. In other words, Americans are fighting and dying protecting the poppy fields.
“More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide. It’s not like they grow money on trees here,” said one U.S. official investigating the corruption and Taliban. “A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium (poppies), of course.”
President Hamid Karzai sees the money changing hands differently. “Making money is fine and taking money out of the country is fine. The relatives of government officials can do this, starting with my brothers. But there’s a possibility of corruption.”
If this is true why does America/NATO continue to send billions of dollars to such a corrupt country? This scenario implies the American government chose its political elites poorly and the continuation of business as usual will only leave disenfranchised Afghan civilians inflamed at the U.S.
According to separate Congressional and Senate reports, the American government pays more than $2 billion for Host Nation Trucking (HNT) or in layman’s terms, private security firms that protect U.S. military convoys and materials in dangerous tribal areas.
A report titled “Warlord, Inc., Extortion and Corruption along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan” was published by Congressman John Tierney (D-MA) in June of last year. The report detailed the billions of dollars spent to protect U.S. military supply convoys in Afghanistan- the majority of the money is paid by the DOD through defense contractors and finds its way into the hands of Taliban leaders and warlords.
The Senate Armed Services Committee also sent staffers to investigate the “convoy protection” issue. Their report titled, “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan” concluded the U.S. pays trucking contractors billions of dollars a year, much of it ends up in the hands of local warlords.
Two U.S. administrations have now promised a “hearts and minds” and “nation building” campaigns and to date both have subverted the ability to impose a military solution. This role is fraught with disappointments since it implies that the U.S. and allied forces will provide the Afghan people with an effective government, root out corruption, create a westernized Afghan military, value women’s rights and ensure fair elections.
It has been 10 years since America waded into the Middle East Wars, and the ability to achieve victory continues to be nothing more than a pipe dream.
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Obama begins to wind-down the costly war in Afghanistan (Final in a series) – San Diego County Political Buzz | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/obama-begins-to-wind-down-the-costly-war-afghanistan-final-a-series#ixzz1Q9m8JYNF
Afghanistan’s corruption is legendary (see Part 3 in this series). The war-torn tribal nation provides fertile fields for training terrorists and growing poppies, is home to al Qaeda, and is where the 9/11 plotters hatched their terrorist attack on America. But sadly, in the worst kept secret in Central Asia, the U.S. condones and encourages the growing of poppies, the base ingredient for heroin and cocaine. We do so, not to keep the poor farmers happy, but to line the pockets of the Taliban, warlords, and the Karzai government. In other words Americans are fighting and dying protecting the poppy fields.
According to Colonel (ret) Eugene Khrushchev (son of the former Soviet Premier) writing for the Salem-News.com, “What Secretary of State (Hilary Clinton) called the ‘best decision in the face of an array of less-than-perfect options’ has set in motion the worse-case nightmare scenario- a boon for the drug lords, a bane for the drug busters.” Colonel Khrushchev contends that America’s drug eradication policy is nothing more than a ruse. Instead it supplies criminal elements with the means to destabilize the Afghan government while destroying the tribal population to ensure terrorists sympathy in the region forever.
The incentive for narcotic trafficking is the $2.7 billion in annual sales, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). And in Afghanistan, the drug trade accounts for more than half the country’s entire GDP.
Making matters worse is Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government’s involvement. Afghan Parliament member, Amanullah Paiman has studied the illicit drug-trade and claims the government runs approximately 70 percent of the narco-fields. “The chain of narco dollars goes from the districts to the highest levels of government.”
Perhaps the most well-known trafficker is President Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. A Newsweek article described it this way; “He (the president’s brother) is the unofficial regional governor of southern Afghanistan and leads the whole trafficking structure,” said a senior Interior Ministry official. However, Ahmed Karzai flatly denies any involvement in the drug trade.
One US argument for letting the farmers grow their lucrative poppy crops rings hollow. Skeptics point out that those farmers could turn to insurgents to earn a living without the poppies. The second focuses economic hardship farmers would suffer if they were forced to grow another crop. Both arguments are false.
The New York Times reported in July of 2008 that Afghanistan was already a narco-state. “Karzai had long opposed aerial eradication. Why? More than 95 percent of the residents of the poppy growing provinces of Helmand and Kandahar- voted for Karzai.”
“Poppy cultivation was becoming limited to the south, more associated with the insurgency and disassociated from poverty…UNODC convincingly demonstrated that poor farmers were abandoning the crop and that poppy growth was confined to the wealthiest parts … ‘poverty doesn’t appear to have been the main driving factor in the expansion of opium poppy’,” according to the NYT.
“UNODC shattered the myth that poppies are grown by destitute farmers…Eighty percent of the land under poppy cultivation in the south had been planted with it only in the last two years …these farmers didn’t need an alternative livelihood. They had abandoned their previous livelihoods…to take advantage of the security vacuum [which coincides with the UK military presence] to grow a more profitable crop: opium…Yet Afghan officials continued to say that poppy cultivation was the only choice for its poor farmers,” the UNODC states. The truth is the insurgents pay the poppy farmers an advance in pay to plant poppies, according to the latest 2011 report.
“The ‘starving farmer’ was a convenient myth. [NATO] …wanted to avoid any uptick in violence from [counternarcotics] strategy; even if the strategy would result in long-term success…the Taliban loved it because their propaganda campaign consisted of trotting out farmers whose fields had been eradicated and having them say that they were going to starve.”
The question of what to do with the poppy fields has plagued every commander in the now 10-year-war. A Newsweek article describes the fear of Afghan officials who fear, “We are losing the fight against drug traffickers. If we don’t crack down on these guys soon, it won’t be long until they’re in control of everything.”
The question remains will the program that started under the Bush Administration and continues with the Obama Administration be the albatross that sinks the war effort? Or does President Obama realize his mistakes and correct them before the American people cry foul?
Part five; Afghanistan- the counterinsurgency- will it work?
Part three; Billion-dollar corruption within the U.S. picked Afghan regime
Part two; U.S. payments to Taliban & Afghan warlords threaten American/NATO troops
Part one; U.S. troops fight and die to preserve Sharaih Law in Afghanistan
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
Continue reading on Examiner.com: Terrorism’s down-payment in the form drugs and U.S. aid money (part 4) – San Diego County Political Buzz | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/terrorism-s-down-payment-the-form-drugs-and-u-s-aid-money-part-4#ixzz1K6S2Zm9J
After reviewing Afghan custom records, the Wall Street Journal reported that during a three-year period more than $3.1 billion in U.S. dollars left Afghanistan through the airport destined for Middle Eastern countries like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. More than $3 billion has been shipped from a country the CIA Fact Book claims only collected $1 billion in taxes annually.
However, U.S. officials believe the number to be much higher. A senior U.S. official said one courier alone removed $2.3 billion in the second half of 2008 and into 2009.
Investigators believe the cash is being siphoned from legitimate Western aid programs and being declared, placed in suitcases and pallets, and shipped to safe havens with the knowledge of the U.S. and NATO officials. For example, NATO gave Afghanistan approximately $14 billion last year.
“More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide. It’s not like they grow money on trees here,” said one U.S. official investigating the corruption and Taliban. “A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium (poppies), of course.”
President Karzai’s brother, Mahmood, who coincidentally is a U.S. citizen (under investigation for racketeering in the U.S.), contends it is the political opponents who are skimming money and sending it out of the country.
“Yes, millions of dollars are leaving this country but it is all taken by politicians. Bribes, corruption, all of it,” Mahmood Karzai says.
Even more perplexing is the fact Mahmood Karzai fears nothing and even dares the U.S. to investigate. “Let’s find out who is taking it. Let’s not go on rumors.” He continues to explain that he has talked with U.S. officials about this corruption and maintains his innocence when it comes to profiting from U.S. contracts.
Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal confirmed there is missing money at a press conference, “We do not even know about it. We don’t know whose it is, why it is leaving, or where it is going.”
Senior officials are complaining that money is leaving faster than anyone realizes. “You get boxes loaded on the back of airplanes. You get guys, literally, bringing boxes of cash onto the plane.”
Another method used to get money out of Afghanistan is the airport’s VIP area. Often the VIPs are driven straight to their planes where they load their cash directly on board and fly off, according to Afghan General Asif and U.S. officials.
General M. Asif Jabar Khail, the chief customs officer at Kabul airport, described a recent incident where he came across one VIP who was taking undeclared millions out of the country and when they tried to stop the VIPs flight to Dubai, they were met with fierce opposition from higher-ups in the Afghanistan government. “It came from very, very senior people. They told me there was an arrangement with the central bank and told me to let it go.”
President Hamid Karzai sees the money changing hands differently. “Making money is fine and taking money out of the country is fine. The relatives of government officials can do this, starting with my brothers. But there’s a possibility of corruption.” If this is true why does America and NATO continue to send billions to such a corrupt country?
Middle men just making a buck
The preferred method of money transfer in Afghanistan moves through “hawalas.” This is a system the Muslim countries have used for many centuries.
The rules surrounding the money changers or “hawala” are sketchy and the handlers keep track of millions/billions in a simple notebook. There is no electronic process for the centralized government to monitor the money exchanging hands.
According to U.S. officials, Afghan couriers reportedly name the hawala responsible for handling the first transfer of the money as well as the second handler accepting the cash in other countries like Dubai.
These hawala’s are the backbone of the Afghan financial sector and the State Department discloses that 80-90 percent of all the monetary matters pass through the primitive hawala system.
While this fraud is sure to anger the U.S. taxpayer, there is even more money being carried through Afghanistan’s porous borders. Afghan officials claim there is more than $10 million that crosses the border each day. This adds up to an additional $3.65 billion a year.
Officials agree that much of the insurgency money is derived from the illicit opium trade, as drugs have long been an easy way for rebels to earn the capital needed to fight a war.
Part four; Terrorism’s down-payment in the form drugs and U.S. aid money
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
It has been reported by the Associated Press that the ethics investigation panel has decided Charles Rangel (D-N.Y) and his staff broke the rules when they knowingly accepted Caribbean vacations on behalf of large corporations.
It is a violation of the House rules to accept extravagant trips on behalf of any businesses while serving in the U.S. Congress. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus say Rangel had been exonerated on four of the trips, however he was guilty of other island vacations.
Rangel, who is an establishment lawmaker, could face the loss of control in the powerful Ways and Means Committee that oversees Medicare and Social Security benefits as well as tax issues.
It is worth pointing put that the House and Means Committee must rewrite the expiring of former President Bush’s tax laws that the committee is expected to tackle – much of it is complicated legislation to craft.
This ethics decision comes as another blow to established Democrats who have suffered a variety of setbacks from passing health care legislation to retiring stalwart leaders. Rangel who has served in the Congress for 34 years could lose his powerful chairmanship.
The good news is the ethics committee decided not to levy formal charges against Rangel that could have led to censure, however the committee is still mulling over other suspect fundraiser and finance activities Rangel is accused of mishandling.
Others contend the beltway insider could decide to retire rather than face a tough midterm election that would be marred with ethical mud slinging as a way to escape further committee investigation.
Rangel did answer a few questions about the ethics committee ruling, but he remained defiant. “So I now have to deal with my lawyer as to what the hell do they (ethics members) mean when something’s ‘imputed?’ Does it mean that no matter what a staff member does, that if a member doesn’t know it a member can be charged and admonished publicly for it?”
In the end Rangel decided to leave the public flogging to his constituents; “I think right now I have to let the general community make its own judgment.”
The ethics committee will issue their report to the public sometime on Friday.
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner
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Take a walk down a little-known street, 3633 Calle Parsioneros. The house is located in a middle-class neighborhood of Juarez and it is the location of a murder spree, one that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would closely monitor.
It began on a hot summer afternoon and ended in winter with several DEA agents’ lives in peril. The secret would not be revealed until one DEA agent put pen to paper, Sandalio Gonzalez. This case began the way most do. Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’ would be known as informant 913. His new job was spying on his boss and delivering tape-recorded conversations to his ICE handler, Raul Bencomo.
“The government’s reckless attitude for Lalo’s life was astonishing. Each time he crossed into Juarez his life was in danger. But each time Lalo came in for debriefing he had a lot of credible information for us,” Bencomo said. “If I had to talk about his honesty, I’d say he was honest 90 percent of the time.”
Lalo’s attorney, Jodi Goodwin, concurred, “Lalo was responsible for more than 60 arrests and convictions as well as millions of dollars in product and cash that were confiscated.”
When it came to informants, Lalo was reliable. He showed up on time, provided good information and only expected a fair price for the work he performed for the U.S. government. According to his attorney, Goodwin and a reliable source close to the case, Lalo is owed more than $500,000 from the government.
Lalo explains ICE placed his life in harms way a number of times. “They (ICE) didn’t understand my position with the recorder, I couldn’t just turn it on or off in front of Santillan without drawing suspicion. After the first murder I was told to keep going but try to not record any more murders. This was very dangerous,” Lalo explains from his new home at an ICE detention facility.
Don’t record any more murders was the ICE supervisors concern. They didn’t seem too concerned with human life, according to Lalo. The first murder to be taped should have been the last, but ICE got greedy, in fact Lalo was working concurrent case involving cigarettes and ICE Associate Special Agent in Charge Patty Kramer and Special Agent in Charge John Gaudioso shockingly thought this case “would make their careers,” according to ICE Agent Bencomo.
It was here that Bencomo wanted out. When Lalo came in for the not-so-routine debriefing, Bencomo and his supervisors had to listen to the recording of a murder. “It was so graphic that I got physically ill and had to throw up,” Bencomo explained. “I wanted out. After the first murder I didn’t want to be a part of this, however I was ordered to stick with it.”
Once the House of Death case came to its conclusion, Lalo and his common-law wife and two children were brought into the United States to start their new lives.
It didn’t work out that way. A few months after Lalo disengaged with his informant duties, there was an attempt on his life. And once the details of the grizzly murders began to surface, questions were asked and Lalo was found out. The cartel he once worked for was now after him – a death warrant was issued.
At this point, Lalo had no other choice and he was taken into protective custody. He thought the country he worked for would keep up their end of the deal. The information ICE was able to procure resulted in multiple arrests and a lot of money and drugs. Lalo had no idea that the country he risked his life for would soon turn on him.
Did ICE and Department of Homeland Security not use the information? Was Lalo charged in America or Mexico with any crime? No. Lalo had something much more valuable – his testimony could put a lot of U.S. government employees in jail for allowing murders to take place, for being accessories to murders, for conspiring to obstruct justice, and for corruption that led straight to Washington D.C.
For the last five years Lalo has been in prison, solitary confinement, without TV or Internet access, his crime – fighting a deportation charge. “If the U.S. deports me it is a death sentence because I’m a very big prize for the cartels. They will make me an example for others who consider working for the Americans,” Lalo explains on the phone from the detention facility.
The never-ending legal quagmire
The legal time line for Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro’s (Lalo) removal from the U.S. began in April of 2005. There have been many court dates in different regions of the country for what amounts to judge shopping by a corrupted Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA) within the Justice Department.
“They (U.S. government) want to find a judge that will send me to my death in Mexico, I don’t understand why they want to burn me. I did everything they asked me to do,” Lalo said.
On May 1, 2005, Lalo received a positive credible fear determination by an Asylum Officer and approval by a Supervisory Asylum Officer in late May of 2005. This would lead to Lalo’s initial trial before an immigration Judge who granted his first ‘Convention Against Torture Protection’ in August of the same year.
Goodwin, Lalo’s attorney found out exactly how much the government wanted Lalo returned to Mexico in January 2006. “This was the first BIA decision reversing immigration judge’s decision and it sent us to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to fight for Lalo’s life.”
During the first 8th Circuit Court hearing, overwhelming amounts of evidence was put forward and in the end the Court ruled in Lalo’s favor. “It looked like I would be out and the case would finally be over, but it wasn’t,” Lalo said. “The decision by the 8th Circuit Court remanded the case to BIA and that resulted in another hearing in February of 2007.”
The second hearing before the immigration judge regarding the granting of ‘Convention Against Torture Protection’ was on October 11, 2007.
Lalo would win his second 8th Circuit Court of Appeal case in August of 2009, therefore one would think the nightmare for Lalo would finally come to a close, but sadly it did not.
A motion was filed by DHS with the BIA to remand the case to an immigration judge on December 31, 2009, and a response brief was filed on behalf of Ramirez Peyro “Lalo” in opposition to the DHS motion to remand.
Lalo now awaits the decision from immigration judges and hopes to win his case for a third time. A disheartened Lalo says; “The depressing part of this is each time I go through the court process it takes more than two years. Why are they doing this?”
Not only does this back and forth in the courts cost money, it proves the government is afraid of what Lalo can testify to. U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton had cartel leader Santillan on multiple murders, but after the Joint Assessment Team (JAT) report was obtained regarding the entire House of Death incident, the murder charges were dropped. Why?
Lalo makes a good witness.
He can testify to the orders he took from an over-zealous ICE office in El Paso, Texas. “I can testify to every detail of my duties for ICE,” he says.
To this day the JAT report has been buried in Washington D.C. and the back and forth inside the judicial system and obvious judge shopping is further proof the U.S. government doesn’t want Lalo to testify. “They want me dead,” Lalo says.
His attorney, House of Death insiders and family all agree that the government wants Lalo to disappear. Once Lalo is gone the embarrassing House of Death case that has left DHS, DOJ, ICE and DEA with a black eye, will forever be swept under the mat.
Former U.S. Attorney Pete Nunez has this to say about the House of Death. “A new book by George Grayson ‘Mexico, Narco-Violence and a Failed State?’ includes a page or two on the House of Death. From what he says, it would appear that this is not a very well kept secret.”
It looks like the government is hiding in plain sight.
The fallout from House of Death
The only employee left holding the bag was Lalo’s handler, Raul Bencomo. In typical fashion ICE kept Bencomo on paid administrative leave for more than four years before letting him go. Bencomo was never in a position of authority when it came to the House of Death and after the first murder he even wanted out. However, his superiors demanded he stick with it and in the end he alone would be holding the bag, losing not only his job, but also his reputation in law enforcement.
The final ruling by ICE explained it this way; “When the Santillan investigation began, 913 (Lalo) was highly connected in the Santillan organization and provided copious amounts of information to the agency regarding illegal operations. After he was involved in the murder of an individual associated with the Santillan organization, agency management instructed the agents, including Bencomo, that 913 (Lalo) could remain active, but could not be involved in any more serious crimes, such involvement was to be reported up the chain of command.”
“On November 25, 2003, 913 (Lalo) called Bencomo and told him that there had been two additional murders on November 23, 2003. Because the group supervisor in charge of the investigation was on leave Bencomo advised another group supervisor, Curtis Compton, that 913 (Lalo) had information about two murders. Compton instructed Bencomo to bring 913 (Lalo) into the office for a debriefing. That same day, Bencomo and Special Agent Luis Rico debriefed 913 (Lalo) regarding the two murders. After several incidents involving drug smuggling activities and murders, 913 was deactivated as a source in March 2004.”
Soon after ICE would remove Bencomo and place him on paid administrative leave eventually firing him some four years later for alleged misconduct.
Part three tomorrow
The younger generation may not remember the movie Serpico, but for those who do Frank “Paco” Serpico is the original super star when it comes to lamplighting. What in the heck is lamplighting? It is the term Serpico coined to replace the term whistle-blowing.
Lamplighting dates back to the days of Paul Revere when the lamps were lit in the tower warning all the British are coming. It is in that spirit that Serpico renamed whistle blowers to a more positive tone. “Lamplighters are individuals who seek truth and justice, even when confronted with the prospect of great personal loss,” explains a passionate Serpico who took on NYPD corruption.
Nothing fires up the original lamplighter more than talking about the perils those who step up and “do the right thing.” Serpico likens lamplighting to entering the tenements in the Bronx, slipping into a room; turning on the lights and watching the cockroaches scamper into the wood works.
Speaking out against titans in the private industry, like big tobacco, or calling uncle when it comes to wartime government contracts or simply trying to protect the borders from terrorists wishing to do harm to American citizens often means stepping outside the comfort zone.
For Serpico, becoming a law enforcement officer was all he wanted to do. To him
a police officer meant respecting the law and doing what was right. You could say his Italian immigrant family values instilled in him the most important trait for a cop- integrity.
“Given the current situation in America and the world, we are at a unique time in history where it is of paramount importance, perhaps more than ever, to ‘do the right thing,’” Serpico explains.
Speaking about America’s living breathing document, the Constitution, former NYPD tough guy explains that it is the job of each citizen is to distrust government and keep those in power, “in check.”
Shining the spotlight on wrongdoing isn’t just ‘the right thing’ but it must be a mantra. According to Serpico, spending one’s life in the grey-zone of morality is simply unacceptable.
Taking a trip down memory lane, Serpico describes some of the toughest moments he faced was the feeling of isolation, loneliness and the knowing that it’s him against the world. For these reasons and others it is important for lamplighters to seek support from groups like the Government Accountability Organization (GAO), Project On Government Oversight (POGO) as well as Serpico’s new website.
“I get many letters from people all over the country and I can’t read them all, but having a support group with other lamplighter organizations can lend a sounding -board environment to drive away the notion you are alone,” Serpico says.
One of the toughest aspects for those who buck the norm and take on corruption first hand is the fact that management is a big part of the problem. Most lamplighters don’t just make the decision to expose co-worker misdeeds; they really weigh all the pros and cons before walking into the bosses’ office.
Once inside the office, behind closed doors the uncomfortable conversation unfolds, believing that shedding the light on inappropriate actions will eventually lead to changes. However, in most cases it is the lamplighter themselves who is shown the door.
The process then moves along to investigation into the lamplighter’s job performance or results in a transfer to another less important post within the company. Altruistic motives, turn to tampered feelings of discontent- management already knows.
Disappointed doesn’t even describe the feeling I had for police chiefs they just “want you to fade into obscurity,” says Serpico.
Today’s new world order
The conversation with Americas top cop diverts to what America faces today in a world of global politics, domestic issues and war.
“I expected Obama would do ‘the right thing’ and end the war (in the Middle East) instead he escalated it,” Serpico tersely says. “It is clear D.C. is broken and Americans can take a page from the people in Iran.”
Yes, he said Iran and he is referring to the recent uprising in the streets by the young Iranians seeking a new government and who seek equality. “They (politicians) treat us like we don’t have a voice – single we don’t, but together we do.”
Since Serpico is an old law enforcement dog naturally he talks about the Patriot Act. Does is support it, no. Why? “Former Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff wrote the bill before 9/11 and the program is capable of amassing information about Americans and they have no intentions to do the right thing,” Serpico explained.
For example, most Americans believe that the Christmas Day bomber spurred the idea the world needs to place full-body scans in every airport. What they don’t tell you, Serpico points out, “is Chertoff owns the company that manufactures the full body scans. On top of that the scanners will not detect the powder the Christmas Day bomber had in his pants.” Serpico insists it’s all about the almighty dollar.
The big brother status in America riles Serpico to the point where he claims his blog is being monitored and he is unable to practice his first Amendment right without content being taken down. “World domination is in full swing,” he said.
Once the book and movie about his life were finished, Serpico chose to leave America. During Serpico’s decade-long stint in Europe he recalls the FBI seeking to apprehend him in Switzerland. “The FBI and CIA are embedded everywhere.” Like many other Americans, Serpico believes the government’s reach is much too wide.
Through his kaleidoscope vision the Medal of Honor recipient explains people need to wake up to the fact they are being mesmerized by television (this explains the fact he has no TV) and stand up for their God given rights. “If we are all brothers and sisters why are we fighting each other instead of the government.”
Politicians don’t hold too high of esteem in Serpico’s eyes. “Politicians are blood-sucking parasites. It’s all about ego and power, the end result is corruption.”
Cases in point, Serpico writes, “Never before have we, as a nation, stood in greater danger of losing our individual liberties as we are today. We the people of this great nation are being punished for the transgressions of our leaders and their consorts. The leaders, who we have elected or not elected, as the case may be, to safeguard and protect our inalienable rights.”
Can anyone of sound mind dispute these facts? Quoting Michael Parenti, he continued, “Here at home and throughout the world, people are fighting back against the forces of wealth, privilege, and militarism—some because they have no choice, others because they would choose no other course but the one that leads to peace and justice.”
Lamplighting and the future
The conversation eventually circles around to the lamplighting topic where he holds many opinions about the future generations attempt to regain control of their country.
“If this country wants more accountability then they need to honor and praise those who come forward to do the right thing,” Serpico quips. Sensing a pattern, “do the right thing” is a major mantra in Serpico’s life. “Politicians don’t like lamplighters because they are a part of the ‘old boys club.’ They don’t want any changes.”
Serpico was never heralded with a ceremony for his Medal of Honor; he simply picked up the piece of metal and threw it into a drawer. In fact Serpico blames his NYPD Police Commissioner Murphy for putting him into harms way. “He got promoted because of me,” Serpico said.
However, he was asked by Bernie Kerik, former NYPD Commissioner, to attend a ceremony. It is here a story is repeated regarding three cadets who came to Serpico and shook his hand. “The first walks up and says ‘you’re the reason I became a police officer. The second says something similar. And the third shakes his hand, and whispers in Frank’s ear, we need to talk after the ceremony.” This is successful in getting a good chuckle.
Another ardent admirer of Serpico is former NYPD officer Charles Houser. “He was the reason I became a NYPD officer. I even served at the exact precinct and worked in the narcotics division. We share the same opinions because higher ups try to stop others for doing the right thing.”
“When I was an officer at NYPD I went to a disco after work with a fellow officer. However, my co-worker went outside and was snorting cocaine, much to my dismay. He offered some to me and I was shocked. Girls who were in the alley way with him said, ‘Wow, we are snorting cocaine with NYPD.’ I turned him in the next day, but he had a relative working in internal affairs and was eventually promoted instead of reprimanded. My career suffered as a result of the whistle-blowing,” Houser says. Complaints like these often fall on deaf ears.
Serpico is proud to learn about Houser and sends his best to an honest cop he has never met. After years of employment, letters of accommodations for integrity and serving honorably is easy to see why Serpico is quick to support a fellow officer. “Not all the NYPD cops are corrupt, but in my opinion they still have a lot of work to do,” Serpico critically states.
Serpico-the untold stories
Another aspect to Serpico’s new found activism is constantly pushing forward. He currently has a television series in development called “Serpico– The Untold Stories.”
The producer of the series is excited and honored to work with a true American hero. “Frank ‘Paco’ Serpico, a NYPD Medal of Honor recipient represents the finest in humanity as a dedicated police officer that forever changed New York politics and the NYPD,” explains BJ Davis a veteran Hollywood producer and director of the Serpico the Untold Stories.
“Today, he is just as committed to insuring the rights and equal protection of U.S. citizens as well as the rank-and-file law enforcement officers. It is an honor to partner with him to bring, “Serpico – The Untold Stories”, hosted by Frank Serpico to the American public and giving a voice to Lamplighters (whistleblowers) who have been retaliated against for doing their job. ‘Serpico’ will be previewed at the 2010 NATPE convention in Las Vegas to buyers, written by Frank Serpico and National Whistleblower, VP of LEOAC, former CBP Officer Julia Davis as production begins.”
In an effort to place the spotlight on the unsung heroes who place their lives on the line only to be retaliated against for doing the right thing, the television series will look at different lamplighters every week. “We hope to shine a positive light onto those who come forward,” Serpico said.
The former NYPD tough guy has many admirers around the country. “Frank Serpico was brave, courageous and bold. Long live his name, long live his glory and long may his story be told,” says John Herbert a Serpico fan.
Bottom line for Serpico remains, “We (officers) need to remember the oath we took and not betray it. However, that becomes difficult as police departments are like a fraternity, just as the medical profession and government agencies. It’s a club and they expect you to play by their rules.”
However, the public is not privy to their rules according to Serpico. There is a certain trust between law enforcement officers because they are placed in many life-threatening instances where one needs to place ultimate trust with partners.
This is where it went terribly wrong for Serpico, he placed his trust in fellow officers and they nearly let him die in the line of duty. He explains that it is hard to talk about the last moments of his NYPD career, because it led to being shot in the face by a criminal and his fellow partners did nothing to back him up, not even call for an ambulance.
“It was a pretty low moment and I have nightmares to this day,” Serpico says. “God made heaven and man made hell.”
Like most lamplighters, Serpico would do it again. “But I’m lucky I don’t have to because there are a lot of great people out there to pass the torch to.”
This is part four in a series.
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Ahern to Retire- But Will the Cronyism, Sex-rings and Security Gaffs End
After three decades of service to the federal government, Jayson Ahern will be leaving the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency with the blessing of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Jay has led CBP and we have benefited from his wisdom…Jay has demonstrated remarkable leadership and service to our nation,” the DHS Secretary explained.
There are many who disagree with that statement. Once the story unfolds “service” will have a different meaning. Speculation and allegations surround the retirement of Ahern. Even though his career was marred with indiscretions he continued to move up the chain of command. Many who have worked with him throughout the years believe the retirement comes as the ‘writing is on the wall’ and a quiet departure will lead to greater opportunities without scandal.
In fact, scandal has long been documented in public detail and the fallout has followed Ahern and others in Miami (and elsewhere) for years. That, in and of itself is not anything new, but the result of this internal corruption and sexual antics have left a nation open to security breakdowns.
Ahern says of his retirement, “the agency is filled with strongly committed and dedicated professionals whose responsibility is to secure the homeland…Over the remaining weeks; I will undoubtedly recall numerous highlights, accomplishments and challenges that we have shared.”
Let’s look back at Ahern’s career in the CBP and see what kind of legacy he will be leaving to his successor, Alan Bersin, an Obama appointee.
A number of top CBP officials have long been ensnared in sexual misconduct allegations and when it comes time for punishment it has been the whistleblowers who find themselves in trouble. Unfortunately this is not the exception, but a tried and true rule, a pattern that continues to be practiced each day in the Department of Homeland Security.
Sex, Lies, and Videotapes
The tale of sexual misconduct has been well documented by the Miami Herald (going back a decade), and in very graphic details in online blogs. Customs officers describe a hostile work environment initially within an elite group of Miami inspectors who successfully fought against the cocaine trade only to end up with dubious sexual scandals attached to their resumes. Indiscretions like drunken skinny dippy, strip ‘pornopoly,’ on-the-job drinking, obscene phone calls and various sexual-aids placed in co-workers mailboxes follow Ahern like a proud badge of honor.
Numerous CBP supervisors were implicated in these activities and a pattern of promotion could be counted on each time these extra-curricular activities took place. This is hardly a gratifying solution for those who are on the receiving end of these non-wanted sexual innuendos.
Content in the series of articles in the Miami Herald went unchallenged and included many names like Ahern and Tom Winkowski. A CBP email highlighted some of these transgressions. Internal e-mails and internet postings point out the numerous sexual indiscretions in the Miami and Los Angeles/Long Beach ports, each port director, Ahern and Winkowski merely swapped locations while keeping the same job.
It must be noted that their official biographies at the CBP website show a similar career track, and that both are married. Sources and peers report that the transfer was the “discipline” though in reality both officials and others received promotions, too, and it’s alleged managers are told to cool the activities for a while until things blow over.
“There were many stories of ‘sexual misconduct while on duty’ among managers and the story was that this is how inspectors were getting promoted in record time,” an internal email read. Discussions about a sex-ring were perpetuated throughout Customs in both ports.
The context of an internal employee email (subject: Chapter 7, Sex, lies, and videotapes) contained sexual encounter after encounter. Employees getting caught both on and off duty with their pants down or their skirts up were commonplace within Legacy Customs and continue to this day much to the chagrin of many employees.
Many cases of sexual harassment were brought against both males and females, including one filed in Florida, where Ahern was named as part of a sex ring in Miami – yet no dismissals of employment occurred, while participants continued to be promoted at the fastest rates. A few short suspensions (for a very insignificant amount), and temporary details to headquarters were the punishment for what seems like a business as usual behavior within the government agency.
Employees who did not want to partake in the sexcapades quickly tried to transfer to other ports. And once word got out they refused to partake in sex games they were ostracized within CBP. One employee referred to the feeling in an email, “It is a very eerie feeling to have to work among sexual predators that seem to want to always be in your space for no reason.”
Employees point to other acquiescent behavior occurring in the office with no attempt to disguise the vulgar language.
“Arthur Gainer was having sex with any female at work that he could. We have heard Arthur Gainer make sexual innuendos to other females while at work and we were standing right there,” the email continued. “This thing is that they all cover up for each other and lie for each other at every level whenever they are caught in the act.” Talk of sexual favors and orgies was a company staple and a ‘regular thing’ especially when there was a ‘going away party.’
The email continues to explain that the sexual “conduct has become a part of the organizational culture of the Customs Service. Because this type of culture is perpetuated and fostered from the highest levels of the agency the new employees who unknowingly are targeted by these sexual predators do not have a chance of justice when they are reporting these acts of misconduct in the mistaken belief that the agency administrators share the same values of integrity that they do.”
Another key player Ray Kelly, New York Police Commissioner, and former Commissioner of Customs knew all about the sexual shenanigans within CBP and like other superiors he continued to ignore the scandal. Kelly also held other positions within the industry of Dept of Treasury Undersecretary of Enforcement (including Customs, Secret Service, BATF, and others) 96-98 and Commissioner of U.S. Customs Service 1998-2000, begging the question; why did he do nothing about this unsavory behavior?
Subsequent top officials including former CBP Commissioners Ralph Basham and Robert Bonner were informed by CBP employees as well and also did nothing to put a stop to it. Meanwhile Ahern, Winkowski and countless others continued to be promoted to the highest positions in the agency.
The rank and file officers who didn’t engage in obscene behavior were left to do the job of many since much of this behavior took place while on duty, in government buildings and vehicles. Even though these employees were being caught on government cameras, walked in on by fellow officers at their offices with large glass doors or windows, nothing brought an end to the sexcapades.
However, employees who dared to fight the establishment on sexual innuendo were often taught a painful message. Constant berating, promotion denials (though qualified) and crappy, often humiliating details would await those who dared to say “no.”
Julia Davis Harassed by the Government She Wanted to Defend After 9-11
One woman bucked the norm and was subject to the wrath of the DHS- Julia Davis.
Officer Davis’ case landed in the courtroom and eventually she was able to expose the DHS and CBP outrageous behavior at the San Ysidro Port in San Diego, CA.
Davis joined CBP after the 9-11 attack on America in an effort to serve her country proudly (Davis is an immigrant). However, her enthusiasm and professionalism for her new law enforcement career turned to fear and anger when one of her Senior Supervisors at work, Kevin Crusilla, began to make inappropriate sexual advances. While harassing Davis, Crusilla continually reminded her that she was a probationary employee and during her first year of employment could be easily terminated at any time at management’s discretion.
At first Davis tried to quietly resolve the issue by asking other Supervisors and Port Directors to intervene without filing a formal complaint. She had no idea that her boss Crusilla was part of the “good ole boy” club and a close personal friend with the upper management. She naively counted on management to make the harassment stop, including Port Director William “Bruce” Ward, Assistant Port Director Orlando Chambers and Port Director Oscar Preciado.
Although Port Managers knew Crusilla had made unwanted sexual advances towards other women, Port Directors and the Crusilla friendship stopped any action against him. Officers at the Port knew that the system would retaliate against anyone reporting misconduct by the management. Davis, however, had no idea that the management was in a habit of attacking victims who dared to complain, instead of disciplining perpetrators. She would later discover that a victim of stalking, battery and harassment was subject to even greater danger by seeking protection from the agency.
DHS continued its harassment of the Davis household eventually using a Black Hawk helicopter and a couple of home invasions to break Davis and get her to stop with the sexual harassment charges. However, it would be DHS that would underestimate Davis and her willingness to fight for her God-given rights and the country she now called home.
In desperation Davis filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on May 10, 2003. Since the Department of Homeland Security was not taking any action to stop the harassment and to protect Davis from Crusilla’s harassment and stalking, she petitioned for and was granted first a temporary and then a permanent restraining order against Crusilla with the California Superior Court in Chula Vista, CA.
This would be her first legal victory against DHS, a company she admired and worked hard to be a part of. A final court decision was issued in September 2005, in the complaint of discrimination by former Customs and Border Protection Officer Davis against the Department of Homeland Security awarding her the amount of $225,000. The Judge ruled Davis established agency culpability of an egregious sort and has been awarded damages as well as attorney fees due to discrimination.
The Judge also ruled that no one could work under the conditions Davis was subjected to and said; “I find that based on the record in the case, complainant has established not only that the agency engaged in illegal conduct, but also that the conduct was intolerable to a reasonable person because it was especially humiliating and included unnecessary harassment. Secondly, I find that the complainant’s resignation was caused by, or in response to, the illegal treatment.”
In a statement Davis said, “This decision is an important step in safeguarding civil rights of federal employees and holding agencies accountable for failing to prevent and to timely curtail unconstitutional actions in the workplace.”
Unconstitutional indeed and something that happens throughout the United States at many ports of entry as confirmed by independent sources that shared their stories throughout all levels of government agencies.
Miami Customs District – Animal House with Badges and Guns
Take the Miami Customs District where a current employee and military veteran states she has never seen such corruption in her life. “When I started with the agency I was told by my superiors that I was nothing more than piece of meat and if I played my cards right I’d move up real fast.”
This didn’t sit well with the former military brat. “I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, everyone takes the same oath unfortunately not everyone takes their oath seriously.”
At the Customs agency ‘protect and serve’ take on a new meaning especially in light of the new world order that includes terrorism. When foreign nationals are entering the country it is important to make sure they harbor no ill will towards Americans and it is the job of the agents to figure this out.
One problem the Miami agency faces with the diversity of employees is hometown allegiance- meaning they are Americans second and home country first. This stereotypical nuance seems simple enough except when you are working America’s ports of entry, and where it is easy to let some things slide-to say compadres from Venezuela or elsewhere.
This Miami source says she’s seen this up close and personal. “I’ve witnessed many agents stamp passports as if these entrants had I-94s, which means they have green card status and allows them fewer restrictions upon entering the country.”
As a result some agents report this to supervisors, but they are told by the supervisor ‘to let it go’ and ‘don’t worry about it.’ “I’ve personally talked to people who have green cards who talk very badly to me when I start asking questions. For example, if they are male I asked if they are signed up for the Selective Service (a U.S. law) and the answers are horrible.”
“I hear, ‘I hate the U.S. I will never fight for you infidels, you deserve to die!’ At that point I take the person to secondary only to be told we have to kick them free.” Now to the average person you may take offence to a green card holder speaking of America in that manner. To an agent it’s their job to ensure no hostile people are entering into the country. “I take an oath to protect and serve, however my supervisors are not letting me do my job and I take that personally.”
Another excuse given to inspectors when they get unruly patrons in a Customs line is; “It’s racial profiling.” Looking back to Ft. Hood, Texas where the military let the political-correctness rule shine through and allowed a Muslim fanatic move up the highest military ranks even though he showed disturbing signs of hatred towards Americans and finally murdering 14 people (13 soldiers one of which was pregnant) in the name of Allah; something is broken.
When people are prone to this kind of behavior at ports of entry they are often struck away because of racial profiling and CBP agents have been told accidents can happen, if you don’t tow the agency line. “I want American people to wake up. We are being attacked from the inside out. National security has been gutted; it’s like taking an apple and putting a worm inside and allowing it to feast. The apple still looks tempting from the outside, but inside there’s nothing left.”
Even with all the problems facing the Miami Customs Office, insiders say there are ways to alleviate the corruption that has plagued the agency for decades. The dirty little secret in Miami is its whorehouse reputation. “I hope with Ahern’s retirement the Department of Homeland Security can clean this agency up. I’ve had personal experiences with fellow male coworkers who groped my private parts and tried to influence me to have sex, but I have more integrity and respect for myself. I’ve filed EEOC reports, complained and nothing has been done to address the situation,” says another agent who wished to remain anonymous for fear of workplace retaliation.
“The DHS needs to clean house and fire these people from start to finish because they are making a mockery of the U.S. legal system. National security is an illusion,” she says. “What security.”
Not one to just complain about the horrific working conditions in Miami the agent offered some suggestions for the incoming commissioner.
Many sources feel candidates for DHS require greater hiring standards and if the candidate has dual passports take their foreign passport away as a condition of employment. It is felt the agencies need to enforce conflict of interest, and put an end to fraternizing with foreigners, and firms such as airlines, cruise ship lines, and cargo companies without penalties of a transfer of authority. It is felt such actions will create loyalty to America.
CBP officials need to treat their employees with respect to earn the respect of their officers at all pay grades in order to rebuild morale and trust.
Fire the current internal and incompetent management regime that has been put in place by offering promotions through participation in the sex-ring and allow an independent agency to investigate the Customs agency.
The CBP agency should be more like the military. Customs at the ports of entry are the front lines to those persons, aircraft, ships, and other forms of transportation including cargo entering the country. Assign those employees from other countries away from their region or hometowns. This will take the temptation away to let people slide that are questionable and need to be detained for further questioning.
After interviewing several agents at different ports of entry, different agencies and different environments it has become critically clear DHS has some major problems. If these issues are not resolved quickly all the employees forecasted an ominous act of terrorism on the horizon. An anonymous agent summed it up best; “There is simply no connecting the dots between departments let alone agencies. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
This brings us back to the retiring Jayson Ahern, and ultimately DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Will she and incoming Commissioner Bersin do anything about internal on-duty misconduct, promotions earned solely for sexual activities, gross incompetence, all while they are supposed to be an agency with a key national security mission?
The impact of Ahern’s legacy outside the sex ring is contained in a memo dated September 2005 regarding Hurricane Katrina and the processing of illegal aliens- this memo was circulated within CBP employees. Illegal aliens only needed to utter Hurricane Katrina Relief it was their free pass to stay in U.S. without documentation or background checks. This was considered by some as the ultimate Disneyland free pass. Of course to this day New Orleans is known for its increase in crime, particularly in the areas where illegal aliens reside – significantly increased as reported by CNN.
Particular points of interest contained in the memo include; “The individual does not pose any known terrorist threat to the U.S.; the individual does not pose any immediate threat to the U.S. for criminal activity; and the individual is not likely to add to the illegal immigrant population in the U.S.” How one can gather this information without the benefit of a background check is beyond many CBP employees- they understood this was nothing more than granting “parole” or amnesty.
Ultimately, will Napolitano and DHS properly investigate CBP’s sex-ring and the inappropriate conduct (including promotions) and put an end to it all? Will they begin terminating managers who retire with full benefits though their service has been less than honorable? Or will it be business as usual, meaning the internal terror continues against officers more interested in sex games, until our next 9-11 happens?
What is clear is that Jayson Ahern leaves a shameful legacy behind him. Napolitano claims Ahern has ‘led CBP and we have benefited from his wisdom.’ Let’s hope the incoming Commissioner does learn that the benefits of business as usual equals failure and wisdom can lead to courage and change.
This story will continue…
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The current of the Rio Grande drags the pebbles and water through the tale of two cities. Those who reside on the U.S. side of El Paso count their blessings to be living in the second safest small city behind Honolulu; while a hop, skip and jump across the bridge sits Mexico’s most violent city of Juarez, where murder, chaos and drug cartels are commonplace.
Juarez has become the new Nuevo Laredo of 2009 and is a throw back into the wild west, gun battles in the streets, unidentified bodies taken away by the dozen; yet one thing protects the seemingly innocence of American lifestyle – the bridges. http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner~y2009m11d24-Crime-part-of-Mexico-strategy-to-undermine-US-corruption-abounds-at-Juarez-bridge
Congressman calls for investigation on Sutton and House of Death
Mexico’s culture of corruption is synonymous with the drug dealers, Federales as well as the government. It is no secret business south of the border is handled with a greasy handshake full of money, but what’s surprising to most Americans are the major trade deals cut to benefit our neighbor to the south.
Why has America bent over backwards to create free trade and open borders with such an uncooperative neighbor? What has Mexico given up for the sake of our benefit? Still thinking? It could take awhile.
Mexico is a country filled with natural resources. There is plenty of fertile land for crops, it lays claim to a massive amount of oil and contains thousands of miles of sandy beaches for tourists to frolic on. So why does this country, so close to the successes of its North American neighbor continue to stagnate in corruption and remain an oligarchy?
For the meantime America is the sole superpower. But unlike the past, American administrations have made mistakes and those blunders translated into some bad deals for the American people.
So where did it begin to go wrong?
Beginning in 2002/03 the American government was in the business of trying to catch the bad guys in Juarez and in the midst of catching the murderous cartel members, ICE found itself involved in a dozen murders.
The murders took place in Juarez, Mexico at the now infamous ‘House of Death.’ Twelve murders should have shook Mexico awake and dealt a blow to the American law enforcement community. Strangely it did not. Mexico would hold on to that huge mistake and smartly use it to their advantage at a later date.
This would now become the first major law enforcement cover-up in the Bush “W” White House.
While 12 murders are taking place under the watchful eye of ICE, a mistake is made and it nearly cost the lives of several DEA agents assigned to the Juarez office. This would forever be known as the catalyst point. Once a senior DEA agent Sandalio Gonzalez learns of ICE’s shenanigans, he writes a letter and begins a paper trail.
When Gonzalez learned about the House of Death details he rightly knows something is afoul. He then writes his ICE counterpart and the office of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton formally demanding accountability for the missteps that led to the U.S. knowing and allegedly participating in 12 murders.
It is worth pointing out that there is no statute of limitations for murder.
“Over the past five and a half years I found a trail that didn’t make sense regarding economic disparities and the undermining of national security. All paths led right back to the El Paso Region because everyone understood Mexico was holding something over us. The pattern was easily documented and verifiable. Ultimately it all led back to the House of Death,” says Andy Ramirez, president of the California based nonprofit Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council, who documented a pattern of prosecutorial abuse by Justice, and misrepresentations of fact by Homeland Security.
With an internal cover-up in play, Mexico was in position to play the House of Death card in 2004 and thereafter due to the failure of the U.S. government to clean house. This would eventually somewhat play out in federal court in December 2006 where sworn testimony of Michelle Leonhart, then DEA Deputy Administrator places responsibility for the House of Death squarely on ICE.
When Leonhart was asked if ICE was responsible, she responded, “ICE was responsible, yes…ICE caused the incident.”
At this point, former U.S. Attorney Pete Nunez said, “heads should have rolled in this case.” Yet no high-ranking U.S. officials lost their jobs, nor were they prosecuted.
This simple fact, coupled with a massive cover-up and Mexico’s silence would allow Mexico to gain favorable economic and immigration related concessions while restructuring U.S. border security- with a very complicit Bush White House.
Uncovering the favors for the Mexican Government
Now that the cover-up is in full swing a pair of meetings would take place in Crawford, TX with Mexico’s President Vicente Fox and U.S. President Bush. During the first meeting in March of 2004, Mexico and the U.S. reached a critical agreement that allowed Mexicans with short-term visas to cross the border without being fingerprinted and photographed by U.S. authorities. The respective leaders also began a discussion of a “Guest Worker Plan” or amnesty.
In April of 2004 a plea agreement was reached regarding the murders in the House of Death case. The cartel leader, Heriberto Santillan pled guilty to drug trafficking while the murder charges were dropped. He accepted 25 years in a U.S. prison courtesy of Sutton. This plea deal ensured that Johnny Boy and the Bush Administration would not have to go into court where the gruesome tortures and murders, as well as the case mismanagement by Sutton’s office and ICE (the very things being covered-up) would be exposed in the light of day.
One can conclude that Sutton was placed all along in the position of gatekeeper to protect the White House. Along with his partner in crime Alberto Gonzales, who went from Special Counsel to the President to Attorney General, both would be able to protect all the Bush Administration’s policies regarding Mexico.
It was also during this time that Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, El Paso Border Patrol Agents, found themselves in a heap of trouble regarding shots fired at a known drug dealer. Sutton was the prosecuting attorney in this case, and in another case involving illegal aliens, that being Edwards County Deputy Sheriff Gilmer Hernandez.
“This case (Ramos-Compean) was a skunk. It had a terrible odor,” explains Congressman Walter B. Jones-R NC. “I always wondered why there was no investigation in this matter and why the Mexican Government had so much sway in this American case involving Border Patrol Agents.”
For Jones and a few other Senior Congressional members the story is becoming increasingly clear, referring to the House of Death. “This conspiracy, corruption and cover-up screams for immediate Congressional investigation,” Jones said matter of factly.
“Wrong is wrong, and after reading more about this case it was expected that Sutton would have shut down the House of Death case after the first murder. He did not. We need to remember we are a nation of laws,” Jones finished.
However, these favors for Mexico did not just involve the questionable prosecutions of law enforcement officers.
Marginalizing the Border Patrol
Soon after in June 2004, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge releases an internal memorandum, which prohibited race profiling as an enforcement method.
U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Temecula Border Patrol Sector were conducting interior enforcement operations in Ontario, CA, which resulted in condemnation by the Mexican government and Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus claiming race profiling. Such actions have continued to this day when it comes to immigration enforcement.
June would prove to be a busy month for the Mexican government.
A Social Security Totalization Agreement was signed with Mexico. This agreement would put millions of illegal Mexican workers into the U.S. Social Security system. It is alleged that they would collect U.S. benefits based on their U.S earnings under false or stolen Social Security numbers plus earnings in Mexico. Opponents claimed this pact would further lure illegal immigration, and remain a key component for the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
On July 1, 2004 David V. Aguilar became Chief of the Border Patrol after being named to the position in May 2004. The appointment of Aguilar, Chief Patrol Agent of Tucson Sector, was key as he immediately began restructuring the patrol from which many controversial internal events began to inexplicably shape.
This brings us back to Andy Ramirez who stated, “It was the appointment of David Aguilar where the Border Patrol was destroyed from within. Very quickly, I had sources consisting of active duty and retired agents telling me that Mexico was running all the sectors and stations along the southwest border. In a very short time an agency who’s motto was ‘Honor First’ became one of ‘no confidence’ where their own employees would be filled with mistrust and fear of the very government they were willing to die for defending our front lines.”
By the end of summer 2004 a “gag” order was put in place by the Department of Homeland Security ending any unauthorized discussion or statements by its’ employees with the public and media. This was needed to stop any whistle blowing within the department or comments by agents to the media regarding the outrageous policies of the Bush Administration.
It is also worth pointing out that the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 was critical in bringing immigration and customs law enforcement agencies together under one umbrella and squelch any stray employees’ opposition to these types of matters.
DHS now had the Border Patrol, Customs, and ICE all within one roof. No one could step out of line under the Bush White House’s watchful eyes. Secretary Ridge and Attorney General Ashcroft would have a direct pipeline to the president, both of whom had full knowledge of the House of Death case as documented in Sandy Gonzalez’ civil suit.
Taking a cue from the 9/11 Commission Report, the Bush Administration released a new National Border Patrol Strategy, which made stopping the terrorists the top priority.
The reality was that such a strategy sounded good on paper, but accomplished very little other than giving Congress and the public a façade of smoke and mirrors to give a sense of “wow they’re doing something to control the borders.”
However, local Border Patrol sector chiefs were stripped of command and control over their kingdoms. All operations were subsequently centralized and placed under the control of headquarters and Chief Aguilar in Washington, DC. In effect, headquarters no longer served the field.
On November 16, 2004, a memorandum of understanding was completed between CBP and ICE in which ICE’ Office of Investigations was given control of key investigative responsibilities while ultimately neutering the Border Patrol by limiting enforcement to cross border traffic in “routine areas of patrol”.
Moving forward into 2005 the Congress was making a full-court press for immigration reform or amnesty.
In early spring another Bush Administration meeting took place in Texas with President Fox, and Canadian Prime Minister Martin to outline the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.
This deal would further weaken border security and interior enforcement as well as denounce U.S. civilian border observers or Minutemen groups as vigilantes, and proposed Republican Congressional legislation calling for construction of a border fence. Discussions about a new “guest worker” plan for Mexican illegal aliens that experts have called a second amnesty also began to take shape at this tri-country pow-wow.
Throughout the summer the country would begin its grumblings about the McCain/Kennedy/Bush immigration reform bill.
Curiously the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Official Website outlines all the activities by U.S. civilian groups including the Minutemen groups, and official investigations by Congressmen regarding border security and interior enforcement.
During this same time period numerous Chief Patrol Agents and other high-ranking officials in the Border Patrol suddenly began to retire early before their mandatory age-57 retirement requirement.
New Mexican President, Same Interference
In the interim, Mexican violence continued to spin out of control with the election of new President Felipe Calderon.
Meanwhile as word of the border fence made its way into the 2006 legislation it was becoming increasingly clear a fence would not be built as many Americans wanted.
“The Bush Administration was constantly dragging their feet. They wanted no part in clear language that put a mandated double fence in high traffic zones and they didn’t want a time certain for completion,” said retired Congressman Duncan L. Hunter, R-CA. “I finally just pushed for the double and triple fence in the San Diego region and left Arizona and Texas out.”
The Bush White House along with other Texas legislators would water down the required fencing in the 2006 immigration reform bill and to this day the fence has been plagued by delays, cost overruns, and bureaucratic obstruction due to immense pressure from Mexico.
However, Americans were having no part in the new amnesty talk and it would be the radio talk shows leading the charge to stop the final McCain/Kennedy/Bush legislation in its tracks.
A defeated White House and an empowered Mexican government wouldn’t end on that note.
The outgoing President Bush would get the Merida Initiative signed into law by June 30 of 2008. It provided $1.4 billion ($400 million immediately) financed through Congressional Appropriations (from U.S. taxpayers) to assist Mexico in combating transnational organized crime; Ambassador Garza and counterpart in Mexico City sign implementation agreement Dec. 3, 2008
Considering the mishandling and subsequent cover-up of the House of Death murder spree that began in El Paso and found its way to Washington, local Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) oddly has never issued any statement regarding this entire mess.
When asked to comment, Vincent Perez, Reyes’ press secretary responded with, “I don’t know what this had to do with us.”
When pressed with the fact that the agencies involved were working in his district, Perez responded, “I still don’t understand what this has to do with our office.”
However, in a different matter Reyes’ office contacted ICE on June 19, 2008 regarding the kidnapping of a relative in Juarez though ICE had no jurisdiction. As a result, Reyes is now under investigation by the House Ethics Committee as a complaint was filed in July 2008 questioning the improper usage of a U.S. law enforcement agency.
Betting the House
The only way this type of political play could have been pulled off was by Mexico having a chip; keeping in mind they want open borders – amnesty at minimum. They had the political chip, or blackmail, courtesy of the mishandling and cover-up of the House of Death case. But to pull it off, law enforcement starting with the Border Patrol had to be undermined and destroyed from within; the very thing Mexico has always wanted. ICE is corrupt, overwhelmed, and melting anyhow so they would be an ineffective replacement.
The long-standing relationship between Reyes and Aguilar within management at Border Patrol is equally important. Reyes was Chief Patrol Agent of McAllen Sector while Aguilar was a high-ranking subordinate under him.
Given this relationship it would be easy to communicate and restructure the Border Patrol to the agency’s detriment with Reyes shepherding it through Congress without much notice. Many Members of Congress have deferred to Reyes due to his experience as a Border Patrol high-ranking agent.
Given DHS and the Justice Department’s roles in the House of Death case, with the ‘rule of law’ eliminated, and their failure to hold people accountable in this matter, amnesty could be pushed. The American people have been left standing alone against these overwhelming odds.
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner
More About: Immigration · 2009 · Border security · Amnesty · Mexico violence · House of Death · La Raza
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