Friday, February 24, 2006

Even more hyped border threats

Stories of an alleged military incursion on the Texas-Mexico border in January turn out to be just as baseless as allegations of Al Quaeda crossing the border -- another example of law enforcement exaggerating threats hoping to draw down homeland security money. I'd missed the Dallas News story saying so ("US, Mexico dispute Texas officers version of drug bust," Feb. 18), but at least the press is starting to run such recantations closer to the original misinformation in their news coverage:

[L]ocal officers say the incident involved heavily armed members of the Mexican military, adding yet more firepower to the violent and dangerous drug cartels trying to protect smuggling routes into the U.S.

U.S. and Mexican government officials say that the Mexican military was not involved and that the local officers exaggerated their account, playing up public fears in a bid to win support for increased funding for border security.

Texas sheriffs are lobbying for $34 million of $100 million in federal money earmarked for border security, money that would pay for additional sheriff deputies to act as a second line of defense behind Border Patrol agents.

"The sheriffs have found a way to get attention and hopefully increased resources for their poor counties, where law enforcement jobs represent the bread and butter of their economy," said Dennis Bixler-Marquez, a political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. "But at what expense and at whose expense?"

That's exactly right - they're hyping nonexistent threats at the expense of ignoring the real ones. I'm glad somebody's calling these guys on their BS, but doing so is a dangerous game -- try it, and the sheriffs might slur you, too. Congressman Sylvestre Reyes from El Paso questioned these most recent undocumented allegations and got smeared outrageously as a result: "I hear Reyes' doubts, and it only makes me question his loyalty to the United States of America," [Hudspeth County] Sheriff [Arvin] West said. "Why is he so cozy in bed with Mexico?"

A better question might be, why isn't Sheriff West cozier with the US homeland security apparatus? It turns out he didn't even report the alleged Mexican military incursion to the authorities, said the News:

Even so, as of Feb. 13, the threat had not been reported to the FBI or any other federal agency. Sheriff West explained: "What can the FBI do about it? I'd rather tell the media because at least the media will write about it."

Uh huh, why report a military incursion onto US soil to the federal government? Especially when the media will spread your misinformation so willingly? Plus, when you call the feds they keep focusing on all those annoying facts that don't seem to fit your story.


Anonymous said...

It figures, Scott.

If you like the source...if they say what backs your agenda, then it's factual.

If the source provides anything contrary to your agenda, present it as "alleged" or "misinformation".

Maybe I'm not the only one who sees through your allegedly well-meaning, civil liberties misinformation persona.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

When a Sheriff fails to report to the feds a supposed military invasion across the border, but tells the media his deputies fought one off, that's not credible on its face.

Meanwhile, Congressman Reyes used to run the Border Patrol district that covered much of the Rio Grande River in West Texas and has a long record on immigration that's totally about enforcement. He spearheaded the most intense effort to secure the border around El Paso anybody's ever seen in the early 90s, to the point where he's mentioned in the history column I wrote up in the next post. To question his "loyalty" to the US was despicable behavior. Or do you disagree?

Anonymous said...

A district politician vs. a county politician.

You and I will never know who is more full of B.S. and who is a true straight shooter, regardless of the list of exploits and/or shameful acts commited by each man.

So don't ask me to pick sides, because it would be futile for either of us.

My issue with this post is your sources, and how easily you will regurgitate their info which fits into your agenda, regardless of the sources credibility.

SteveHeath said...

Thanks for the coverage, Scott. Your citations echo much of the word we get from cops with long experience on the front lines of the so-called "War on Drugs"

Steve Heath
Media Relations
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Anonymous, you ignore completely that West didn't report the incident to the proper authorities. His story doesn't add up. I just don't believe the Mexican military invaded and law enforcement didn't call homeland security: You must know that's not credible, especially when sheriffs have multi-million dollar incentives to hype the threat. Sorry, I think it's pretty clear who to believe in this case.

Anonymous said...

All I can tell you about things adding up is we don't know his reasons for doing exactly what he did, and we don't know exactly what he did (or didn't do).

In this article, if you wish to question the sheriff's integrity based on what you think you know he didn't do, be my guest. Doesn't change how you handle your sources.

BTW, do you really think the Mexican military wasn't involved in this drug smuggling operation?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I question Sheriff West's story based on a) that we KNOW he didn't tell the feds about the incident by his own admission (he said it was because he didn't think they'd do anything), b) the fact that the US and Mexican governments both dispute his claim, and c) the Sheriff's indefensible slurs against Congressman Reyes, which appear to be the act of someone lashing out like a child caught in a lie. I've also noticed a pattern of spectacular incidents reported that, like this one, were retracted weeks or months later when reporters checked them out. Believe whatever you like, but them who have eyes, let them see.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing about eyes, they only see so much...and much of that is what they want to see.

There is no fine line in Mexico between what we would consider the good folks and the bad. Military, fed police, local police, gov't officials, etc. If you think Mex-feds aren't crossing our border to traffic drugs, sit overnight for a week on Falcon Lake, well hidden, then get back to me.

These border threats were "hyped" by your 2 sources. The governments of the U.S. and Mexico (hmm, good sources now, according to Scott), and 1. what the Sheriff said, and 2. said he didn't do. Shaky at best, at worst no indication at all of "hyped" border threats.

"I've also noticed a pattern of spectacular incidents reported that, like this one, were retracted weeks or months later when reporters checked them out."
Links, perhaps? Or should we just make assumptions with this fallacy?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

You're the one who seems to think that all sources are credible if they point to a terrorism or military related border threat instead of drug runners, even after the media debunks the stories. You're right we can't know for 100% sure, but when anomalies in credibility exist only on one side of the debate, as in this case, it's reasonable to think that's the side that's not telling the whole truth.

Also, you don't think there are other incidents? Sorry, I thought from your tone you were a regular. Check the links in the post, or search the blog on border security. I've been compiling them as I see them. Also the SA Express News did a feature, linked and quoted in one of those posts, citing border law enforcement officials claiming the sheriffs were overhyping threats. This is just the latest example.

Anonymous said...

"I know you are but what am I?"

Ok, you want the latest example? Read this:

A nice little excerpt to save time.

'Some officials suggested Wednesday that the confrontation between Texas law officers earlier this week was with drug smugglers, not Mexican soldiers assisting narcotics traffickers across the Rio Grande.

But a Border Patrol agent who spoke on condition of anonymity said continuous cover-ups by Mexican and U.S. officials have put many agents and American lives in danger.

"I think it shows how desperate the situation has become. I think it's insulting to expect Americans to believe what (Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael) Chertoff and the Mexican government are saying," the agent said Wednesday.'

Or how about this...

A U.S. law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity said the FBI and other agencies found no evidence the uniformed men involved in Monday's incident were Mexican soldiers.
But Hardrick Crawford Jr., a former special agent who was in charge of the FBI's El Paso's office, said he covered numerous narcotics cases along the border and documented military incursions since the mid-'90s. He said he expected both governments to deny the incursions.
"It's an embarrassment to both countries for the truth of these incursions to come out," Crawford said.
"I was concerned about the incursions on the border when I first got to El Paso. I wanted agents to go interview every rancher and resident in the area and I wanted the military incursions to be documented. I thought this would be important information - but many people didn't do anything about these incursions."
Crawford added that investigations in Mexico were difficult to conduct because the honest Mexican residents didn't want to put their own lives in danger by giving law enforcement officials information on the drug cartels.
"The drug trade is too lucrative," Crawford said. "Mexican soldiers and police officials are paid little. So it's just too tempting. With the increased efficiency and effort along the border, narcotics traffickers can bring in whatever they want. And if you go against them they'll kill you."

Hyped Border Threat? You don't have a clue, and it's a shame you pretend to.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I've never said there's no need for border security, only that the enemies are drug runners, not Al Qaeda or the Mexican military. Might some soldiers have succumbed to corruption, like the Zetas? Sure, just like the cops. But the Mexican military isnt the threat - the drug runners are. At bottom, that's what the article you quoted from said, too.

That said, I appreciate you actually providing a source for a change, even if it's recycling the same old claims from the same old sources. You may not like what I have to say but I always provide the links - readers can judge for themselves what they think of them and sometimes, as in your case, they'll disagree. Best,

Anonymous said...

LOL...that's rich.

Now my sources are suspect...same "old" ones? Hit that website and see some of the recent dates.

Or try this one:

"Intrusions by the Mexican military to protect drug loads happen all the time and represent a significant threat to the agents. " The source? T.J. Bonner, a 27-year Border Patrol veteran who heads the National Border Patrol Council.

But I see now that the point of your article, "hyped border threats" is no longer the point (since we can now read how untrue it is). Now it's that the mexican military can't be blamed because some of their soldiers work in the drug trade.

If you can't stand by what you print then the fallacy used to further your agenda needs to be illuminated.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I stand by what I wrote, and my position hasn't changed. See the lede to this Grits post from mid-February. I've never said ALL border threats were hyped, just the ones that ignore the real problems for the flashier headlines. I know the flashy headlines draw down more pork, though, so I can see why you'd like them.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Oh, from that same post, and this sums up why I keep harping on hyping chimeric threats:

"My problem is this - if you target the wrong threat, the money spent to 'solve' the problem won't make anyone safer. Reforms aimed at 'terrorists' won't stop the drug cartels. Reforms targeting illegal border crossings by immigrants won't stop the cartels, either."

One could say the same about blaming the Mexican military - the real border security problem is the drug runners, not that Mexico might send troops to invade Brownsville.

Anonymous said...


The real border threat involves all of it. The threat is in having a weak border, regardless of the "target".

Once again, if it fits your agenda it gets the Henson nod. If it doesn't it's either a waste of tax dollars or a civil rights violation of some kind.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

After this you're welcome to have the last word, but you're dead wrong that you can have a "strong border" that protects against all threats.

To stop immigration you must bulk up betwwen checkpoints, but even if you sealed it completely (and you can't: show me a 50 foot wall and I'll show you a 51 foot ladder), most drugs still come through the checkpoints. The line to crosss the border already backs up for miles and they can only inspect .5% or so of vehicles crossing from Mexico. They can never all be inspected and inspectors can be bribed. That's a bigger problem requiring more subtle approaches including undercover operations aimed at the large criminal organizations. Those are very different strategies. For Al Quaeda, the Canadian border is at least as likely an entry point, and neither are as likely as any international airport.

Check out security consultant Bruce Schneier's book Beyond Fear, where he developed a security matrix for analyzing threats and defenses. One of his key tenets is that you can't strongly defend against everything, so you have to target specific threats, protect specific assets and prioritize. The Mexico border issues fit his model classically.

You may now go back to your regular trolling already in progress

Anonymous said...

"You may now go back to your regular trolling already in progress"

Oh please. Don't whine when you get treated in the exact manner that you treat others. You made yourself a public persona, answerable in the same manner as those you attack. Or, you can censor me.

As for the path this thread is taking, I don't assume that the border can be strong. But it can be stronger taking into account terrorism, drugs and illegal immigration as specific "targets".

Targeting threats is a nice theory for your author, and it's the new-buzz-direction law enforcement is taking, so we'll just see how well it works. At the expense, of course, of some pretty good tactics that have historically worked but are under attack by...that's right, The Hensonites.

Anonymous said...

Tactics that "worked"?!!!!!

What the hell could you possibly be talking about? Stopping immigration? Stopping drugs? Geez! Read a newspaper much?

Anonymous said...

Read a newspaper...? I live it every day, amigo, rather than sit on my arse, eating a twinkie, pretending to know doodly about the "war on drugs" (I prefer donuts).

Highway interdiction is a, a great tactic. The racial profiling fallacy has hurt it recently, and that's too bad.