‘Department of Homeland Security Continues to Mislead American People’ About Drug Cartel Violence in U.S., Says AZ Sheriff

By Penny Starr | October 18, 2010 | 6:51 PM EDT

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said on Monday that officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are lying to the American people by denying the accuracy of an e-mail memo sent by the department to Arizona law enforcement in May warning of drug cartel operations in the state.

The May 13 memo warned of assassins (“sicarios”) being sent into Arizona by Mexican drug cartels to “take out” other criminals trying to steal drug shipments. Last Friday, Oct. 15, DHS spokesman Matt Chandler issued a statement saying that the memo was “inaccurate” and that the department does not, at this time, have intelligence to back up the warning.

Concerning the DHS statement, Sheriff Babeu told CNSNews.com, “This is outrageous that these people would lie to the American people.”

And in his own statement released on Friday, Babeu had also said, “The Department of Homeland Security continues to mislead the American people on this issue.”

The sheriff told CNSNews.com, “And for this [May 13 DHS] memo, which was never retracted, has actually proven to be very true in all its elements. We know for a fact that there are the LPOPs [listening posts, observation posts] in America – in my county.”

Babeu went on to say that the DHS – between May 13 and last Friday when news broke about the assassins memo – had not sent a second e-mail or letter stating that the intelligence from a “proven, credible, confidential source,” as defined in the May 13 memo, was incorrect.

The DHS said nothing about the alleged inaccuracy of the May 13 e-mail until after news leaked about it to the local media last week.

Babeu added that drug cartel violence in the Vekol Valley – named in the May 13 memo as the Arizona area where the assassins apparently were operating -- has increased, citing the April shooting of a Pinal County deputy and two men suspected of drug running who were found shot to death in that area.

“I’m saying as the commander in the field, as the sheriff of this county, that it’s absolutely true, and I didn’t need a memo to tell me so,” Babeu told CNSNews.com.

Pinal County is in south central Arizona about 70 miles from the U.S. Mexico border.

Homesland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (AP Photo.)

The DHS statement of Oct. 15 claiming that the intelligence memo of May 13 was “inaccurate” was circulated to media outlets on Friday, and questions were directed to the agency by the press. (See related story.)

“It appears what media are quoting from was an email between law enforcement personnel last May,” the Friday statement said. “DHS regularly shares information with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in an effort to provide situational awareness about intelligence and to keep our partners aware of any and all potential threats.”

“This particular information proved to be inaccurate,” the statement continued. “At this time, DHS does not have any specific, credible information on intra-cartel violence taking place in Arizona.”

The statement concluded by crediting the Obama administration with success in making the U.S. border with Mexico more secure.

“Over the past twenty months, this Administration has dedicated unprecedented manpower, technology and infrastructure to the Southwest border,” said the DHS. “In addition to remaining in close contact with law enforcement on the ground, over the past several months we have added personnel and assets to Arizona to assist other federal, state, and local partners to keep our communities safe.”

Congress passed a $600-million border security bill in August and about 500 National Guard troops were subsequently deployed to Arizona, substantially less than the 3,000 troops requested by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in the 10-point border security plan they announced in April, weeks before the DHS e-mail about cartel assassins was sent.

Babeu said none of the National Guard troops is stationed in Pinal County.

The McCain/Kyl plan also calls for completion of the 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico and the construction of double- and triple-layer fencing at appropriate locations along the Arizona-Mexico border.

Babeu said that until the border is “completely sealed” to halt all drug and human trafficking, the administration’s policies will not be effective.

“Until that happens, all of this is just window dressing that they are doing,” Babeu said. “It’s expensive window dressing.”

Babeu sent his own statement from Friday to Chandler at the DHS but Chandler did not respond, said the sheriff.

“It is very troubling that their email refers to intelligence information gathered about Deputy Puroll’s shooting, which was confirmed, and also four weeks later we had two illegal immigrants murdered in this same area described in the email where they said it would take place,” said Babeu’s statement, referencing the shooting of  Deputy Larry Puroll, just weeks before the DHS e-mail of May 13 was issued.

Eznel Cortes Jimenez, aka "El Teniente," is guarded by a federal police officer as he is presented to the press in Mexico City on Tuesday, June 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

“One of the illegal immigrants was armed with an assault rifle,” the statement continued. “Now, during the past several weeks ‘spotters’ have been located in several different caves, which is also referenced in the [DHS] email.”

The DHS did not respond to a second set of questions from CNSNews.com about the May 13 memo and Babeu’s own statement from last Friday.

The original May 13 e-mail from the DHS to Arizona law enforcement reads, in part: “We just received information from a proven credible confidential source who reported that last weekend, a meeting was held in Puerto Penasco in which every smuggling organization who utilized the Vekol Valley was told to attend. This included rival groups within the Guzman cartel.

“It was decided that the cartel would send a group of fifteen, very well equipped and armed sicarios complete with bullet proof vests, into the Vekol Valley” the e-mail continues. “The Cartel has a map of where the most bandit activity has been occurring. The group will walk into the valley taking four days to get into LPOP positions and communicate back to Penasco. Penasco will then send groups of simulated backpackers carrying empty boxes covered with burlap into the Vekol Valley to draw out the bandits. Once the bandits have been identified, the sicarios will take out the bandits.”

“Incidentally” the e-mail continues,” the night of the Vekol Valley shooting, we received information from a source who reported that the scouts in the valley (the Cartel has 23 scout locations with rolling encryption) were reporting that bandits had shot two sheriff’s deputies and the area was covered with cops.”