Strange doings at the border

Posted on Thursday 8 February 2007

The case of two border agents sentenced to federal prison for 11 and 12 years has some folks in an uproar. From the Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON — Republican congressmen’s outrage over the imprisonment of two Border Patrol agents from Texas intensified Wednesday as the top Homeland Security investigative official apologized for his aides’ misleading statements to lawmakers about the case.

The agents, sent to federal prison for wounding a fleeing Mexican drug trafficker and hiding evidence, never told investigators that they went on patrol intending to “shoot a Mexican,” admitted Richard Skinner, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, under questioning during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing.

The misstatements occurred when aides briefed four Texas congressmen in September about the 2005 shooting near Fabens, southeast of El Paso.

“It was an unfortunate mischaracterization,” Skinner told Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, whose district stretches to Harris County. “I apologize on behalf of our staff, and I just want to make perfectly clear this was not intentional.”

Unintentional? Are they serious?? Something’s squirrelly all the way around here.

While I can see that the “unfortunate mischaracterization” would have cast the agents’ attitudes in a malignant light, it doesn’t negate the problematic hiding of evidence. They shot a drug trafficker at the border (firing 15 rounds), then picked up the casings and didn’t report the incident.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said the report only bolsters the congressman’s support of the agents.

“The OIG report has just emboldened our position because there is nothing in there that indicates these agents were not justified in shooting this individual,” said Tara Setmayer. “This finally sheds some light on what these agents were thinking.”

She pointed to Compean’s written statement which she said reflects that he “clearly believed the drug smuggler had a weapon and feared for his life.”

If that’s true, then why did the agents destroy evidence and try to hide the incident? And then there’s this graceless addition to society:

According to the report, Aldrete, who was given immunity and has filed a multimillion dollar claim against the federal government, told investigators he was unarmed and shot as he ran away from Compean and other agents. He said he tried to surrender and ran again after Compean slipped while trying to hit him with the butt of a shotgun.

The report also notes that other agents on the scene that day could not confirm whether Aldrete was armed and initially lied about whether they were aware of the shooting. They later cooperated with authorities. Those agents, whose names were removed from the report, were not prosecuted.

This is a drug smuggler. Why on earth would he be given immunity? Was he or was he not trying to bring 743 pounds of marijuana into the country?

And if the crime, ultimately, is the shooting cover-up, why would those two agents receive significant prison time, but the other agents (who also lied) get nothing?

I do not want a bunch of vigilante yahoos walking around on the border shooting folks and then trying to pretend nothing happened… but I also don’t like the way they’ve handled the drug smuggler.

Jeesum, the borders are a mess, eh?

    February 8, 2007 | 9:46 am

    While you are at it, don’t forget that the BoP has a little something to answer for, too: one of the former agents was attacked by fellow inmates, after he was identified on America’s Most Wanted, which was playing on the TV in the prison.


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