Last week U.S. national security stood front and center with a stunning acknowledgment Americans can expect another terrorist attempt on the homeland in the next three to six months. That prediction sparked countrywide debate ending with a five-page letter from Attorney General Eric Holder lashing out at Republicans and letting the country know he will run the Department of Justice his way.
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took the brunt of Holder’s anger as the five-page letter was addressed to the Kentucky Senate Minority leader. The lesson in terrorist treatment of the most recent American terrorist attempt on Christmas Day began this way;
“The decision to charge Mr. Abdulmutallab in federal court, and the methods used to interrogate him, are fully consistent with the long-established and publicly known policies and practices of the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the United States Government as a whole, as implemented for many years by Administrations of both parties. Those policies and practices, which were not criticized when employed by previous Administrations, have been and remain extremely effective in protecting national security. They are among the many powerful weapons this country can and should use to win the war against al-Qaeda,” said Holder. (click link to read letter; http://www.scribd.com/doc/26325635/Eric-Holder-letter-to-Mitch-McConnell-2-3-2010)
This statement suggests the U.S. government must use all tools in the toolbox to combat the fight against terror. However, just as there are many tools in the toolbox, it can be said there are many forms of terrorism the country faces.
Case in point when it comes to the country’s southwest borders the Mexican drug cartels pose just as much of a threat to American sovereignty. In fact the cartels have no allegiance to America and will use terrorists as a means to their ends – get drugs to the hungry U.S. customer.
There are some curious points contained in Holder’s letter to Senate Republicans.
“In contrast to the government's recent self-serving letter by AG Holder to a number of U.S. Senators concerned with the handling of the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 last December 25th, the mishandling of House of Death informant Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro or ‘Lalo’ along with the related cover up of alleged U.S. involvement in over a dozen murders, is a national disgrace for which both the Bush and Obama administrations should be held accountable by the U.S. Congress,” explains Sandalio Gonzalez retired DEA agent who blew the whistle on the infamous House of Death case.
“The complete lack of integrity, rampant hypocrisy, and reckless disregard for the rule of law exhibited by the U.S. government in every aspect of this case (House of Death) is nothing short of reprehensible,” Gonzalez says. “To this day it continues to be an ongoing insult to the nation and all its law enforcement officers and law abiding citizens. Every government official with knowledge of this tragic affair, from all branches of government, who have stood silent and allowed the cover up to continue, are themselves part of the conspiracy and should hang their heads in shame,” he finishes.
For those unfamiliar with the House of Death, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) participated in an undercover operation to infiltrate one of the Juarez drug cartels. The informant they chose, Lalo, had a prior relationship with a ranking Juarez cartel lieutenant, Heriberto Santillan Tabares and Lalo would rely on his relationship with his boss to collect intelligence for the U.S. government.
Mexican drug cartels have evolved over the years and the ruthless, gruesome killing methods associated with the drug trade placed Lalo in the middle of a high-stakes, take no prisoners game. One wrong move and Lalo would be on the receiving end of death.
“My job was very dangerous,” says Lalo. “I explained this to my ICE handler, Raul Bencomo. They (ICE) knew I was giving good information and they wanted me to keep going even after the first murder.” Yes, the U.S. government wanted a civilian-informant to continue recording information about the cartel business even if it happened to be murder. “They wanted me to try and not record anymore murders, but I told them I couldn’t promise that because the ‘death house’ was very dangerous,” Lalo said.
With the promise of a new life in America and plenty of start-up money, Lalo continued to place his life on the line for ICE agents. “He was the best informant we had,” Bencomo said about his reliable informant Lalo. However, it would take a dozen murders and the breach of safety of DEA agents living in Juarez, Mexico to end Lalo’s run as informant.
Despite the emergency evacuation of DEA personnel from the world’s most violent city, Lalo would undertake one last job for ICE – lure cartel leader, Santillan to the United States so ICE could arrest him.
“Not only did I get Santillan to come to El Paso I drove him around and got him to talk about the past murders. Santillan started talking about the last days’ actions,” Lalo explains. It would be here the wanted cartel leader would talk about another murder at the “little house.”
Once the dark story was complete, Lalo would be pulled over in his own vehicle by a controlled traffic stop. The “House of Death” saga would end quietly with the arrest of Santillan. Law enforcement would tell the Juarez cartel leader he was under arrest and the last thing Lalo overheard from his boss was fact he had a warrant for his arrest, “I don’t have two hours in this country, how do I get a warrant?”
With Lalo’s mission complete, he is released from fake custody and Bencomo thanked him for a job well done.
In a strange twist, Santillan would admit to drug charges and get 25 years in U.S. prison and U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton would drop the murder charges in order to avoid a messy trial.
However in an unexpected turn of events Lalo would find himself in custody. Lalo explained that DHS was scrambling to pin a murder on him and when that didn’t work they wanted him to say his ICE handler, Bencomo was corrupt and when that didn’t work they threatened to deport his common-law wife and children back to Mexico.
“That was blackmail because if they sent my family back to Mexico the cartels would kill them immediately. Juanita Fielden, Assistant U.S. Attorney in El Paso, promised me many things, and once I signed the paper to remain in custody, I never heard from her again,” Lalo said.
He continues to fight deportation to this day even after favorable rulings by immigration judges. Yet he and has spent more than six years in jail, most of it in solitary confinement. While enemy combatants have access to other prisoners, TV, computers and attorneys Lalo does not. “I think they (America) want to keep me by myself and break me, hoping I will just accept deportation.”
The fact remains, Lalo, who was paid approximately $250,000 to be an ICE informant, was stabbed in the back by a corrupt U.S. government who continues to cover its tracks and push for Lalo to be deported where he will surely face death at the hands of the very people he successfully collected evidence against.
What effect will this have on future informants the U.S. depends on to fight the drug cartels or other criminal enterprises remains to be seen, but the fallout is surely devastating for future undercover operations.
“The implications are significant for such behavior on the part of the government quickly becomes known in the "underworld" so to speak, as in Lalo's case. As a result, potential "walk in" sources of information that the government has no hammer on, as opposed to defendant/informants (the ones that "flip" to get their sentences reduced), simply will not come forward to cooperate,” explains retired DEA Agent Gonzalez “There's also a strong possibility that agents with a conscience will simply not recruit such sources because they know that people above them in the pecking order will leave them hanging. Every time an informant is burned the word gets out, and it becomes increasingly difficult to convince other individuals to cooperate.”
Former NYPD officer Charles Houser had this to say about the treatment of informants.
“Burning informants is a very bad and seriously unintelligent maneuver. It's very difficult to cultivate a productive informant from a law enforcement perspective. Informants are sometimes the only vehicle available to bringing bad guys to justice. Burning an informant only serves as a warning to other potential informants who may consider cooperating with law enforcement authorities, of the hazards of such a relationship.”
Houser explains that NYPD back in the day, “we had enough of a problem just getting witnesses to a felony, even homicides, to make a statement. I can't imagine any scenario short of an emergency where the public safety was a priority and necessary to sacrificing informant. The betrayal of trust would be enough to send potential informants running.
It is truly the height of hypocrisy that the government provides rights to terrorists, while government informants are held without charges pressed against them in violation of due process, according to Andy Ramirez of Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council.
“It is important to define such labels as Congress has not declared war on Afghanistan or any other nation. Operations are being conducted against terrorist outfits that could consist of a number of cells with any number of persons, or made up of a sole individual, of which there is no way to know specifics. As such, one must question Constitutional protections provided beyond human rights.”
“Of course the irony is that these basic rights, given to terrorists, have not been provided to ‘Lalo’ the ICE informant in the House of Death case. He continues to be held illegally by ICE (and DHS), while justice continues to be obstructed by the government. Of course the reason is very simple as Lalo is ‘the material witness’ in the House of Death case and can implicate wrongdoing by many officials. Documentation shows that the cover-up of this case involved many of the highest- ranking Bush Administration officials. By continuing to try to deport Lalo to Mexico knowing he will be murdered by the cartels, and violating his rights, this is no longer just a Bush case as it continues to be obstructed by the Obama Administration.”
Given the tenor and tone of this letter from AG Holder to Senate Minority Leader McConnell, it’s what I would have expected of former AG Gonzales. Yet, it is what it is given the refusal by the Congress to hold the Justice Department and Homeland Security accountable for outright lying repeatedly in testimony as well as to the American people. “Both are known for rampant abuse, retaliations against whistleblowers, and bad terminations and prosecutions in what I’ve coined the ‘War on Law Enforcement,’” Ramirez states.
“The only way this nonsense will ever cease is for Congress to realize that the Executive Branch is out of control, as well as their partner in collusion, that being the courts, and rein the other two branches back in for that is their role, to maintain accountability under checks and balances. The other two branches have crossed the so-called separation of powers line repeatedly and that must stop by auditing funding, filing contempt of Congress citations and articles of impeachment, issuing subpoenas, conducting real hearings under oath, and appointing independent special prosecutors to get to the bottom of things,” Ramirez finishes.
When comparing Lalo’s House of Death case to the terrorists in U.S. custody Gonzalez calls it like he sees it.
“It's simple, while the government is willing to prosecute alleged terrorists, it is not yet, nor will it be anytime soon, willing to prosecute former and present high-level government officials on murder-related charges. That would be quite the embarrassing situation to say the least. Lalo would be key for such a prosecution, which is why he's being held as some sort of nuclear inter-galactic combatant because if he were a mere enemy combatant he would have some rights. Apparently the laws of this planet don't apply to him,” he says.
“By the way, let's not forget that the government was fully willing to take action against only one low level official; Agent Bencomo, a Hispanic, was fired by ICE. Coincidence?” This is Gonzalez’ explanation of the House of Death fiasco where an ICE informant who is not wanted for any crime anywhere in the world remains in jail, fighting for his life because the government he worked for wants him deported to Mexico – a death sentence.
In frustration Lalo sums up his experience as an informant for America, “it’s been my American nightmare and I can no longer trust anything the government says. I don’t even want to be in the witness protection program because I don’t believe they will protect me. It’s ridiculous how they are treating someone who did nothing but help DHS put dangerous cartel members in jail.”
Why does a “standard operating procedure” apply to suspected terrorists eliciting a detailed response by Holder, but yet the government continues to hold Lalo in prison, in violation of his rights - both human and constitutional? It certainly appears that the U.S. government is only interested in protecting terrorists who wish to harm American citizens, while the Departments of Homeland Security and “Justice” are interested in protecting their employees from the legal consequences of reprehensible actions they participated in.
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/x-10317-San-Diego-County-Political-Buzz-Examiner