Did US DEA forces pose as Mexican troops to capture drug kingpin?

Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ GuzmánThe notorious drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán captured the attention of the world’s media a few weeks ago, when he escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico through a secret tunnel. But his cinematic prison breakout may have overshadowed the story of his arrest, which, according to recent reports, may be as interesting as that of his latest escape from prison.

Guzmán was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on February 22, 2014. He was reportedly captured in Mazatlán, a resort town in Mexico’s west-coast state of Sinaloa, by an elite squad of Mexican marines. The marines, we were told at the time, were receiving crucial intelligence support from a several United States government agencies. Or at least that is the official story of the drug kingpin’s arrest. On July 18, however, Mexico’s leading investigative newsmagazine, Proceso, published a lead article alleging that Guzmán was not arrested by Mexican marines, but by American operatives disguised as Mexican marines.

The article was written by J. Jesús Esquivel, a longtime reporter on intelligence and security affairs, who has authored two books on the history of operations conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other American security and intelligence agencies in Mexico. In his July 18 article, Esquivel says he was told by two American officials —who he does not name— that Mexican marines had little to do with Guzmán’s capture. The drug lord was tracked down by the US Marshals Service and the DEA through a web of informants and electronic tracking devices. Once they knew they had him, he two agencies, supported by a third American agency, which Esquivel does not identify, raided Guzmán’s hotel suite in Mazatlán, dressed in Mexican marine uniforms and driving vehicles bearing Mexican navy insignia.

The Intercept, which covered Proceso’s story on Thursday, correctly stated that, if the newsmagazine’s allegations are true, they would not mark the first time that American government agents posing as Mexican troops have conducted counternarcotics operations in Mexico. The practice has been revealed before, most recently by The Wall Street Journal. But, if true, Proceso’s allegations would seem to indicate an unprecedented degree of operational activity by US intelligence and security agencies south of the border. Additionally, it is alleged that the American agencies deliberately chose to keep their Mexican counterparts in the dark until after Guzmán had been captured, because they feared that the drug kingpin would be notified by informants inside the Mexican government. If this information is accurate, it would indicate that the line separating the Mexican drug cartels from the country’s government remains markedly blurry.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 24 July 2015 | Permalink: http://intelnews.org/2015/07/24/01-1742/

Revealed: DEA’s massive phone tapping scheme that preceded NSA’s

Drug Enforcement AdministrationBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
For nearly a decade before 9/11 and the controversial phone tapping program enacted by the National Security Agency, another American intelligence organization, the Drug Enforcement Administration, operated a mass phone surveillance scheme. The scheme, which is no longer in effect, collected data on billions of phone exchanges involving Americans and became a blueprint for NSA’s post-9/11 monitoring efforts. The DEA surveillance program was first disclosed in a report by the Department of Justice in January of this year. But its history, as well as its full extent, were fully revealed on Tuesday by USA Today.

The paper said the DEA program was initiated in 1992, during the presidency of George Bush, Sr., and was aimed at monitoring call data to and from “designated foreign countries” that were “linked to drug trafficking”. But the program grew to monitor data on every call made to and from the US to as many as 116 nations, said the paper, including every country in the Americas. In all, billions of calls were monitored in the over two decades that the program lasted. Citing interviews with “more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials”, USA Today said the DEA surveillance program did not access the content of intercepted phone calls, but rather the pen-register data, namely which numbers were dialed and when.

The intercepted information enabled the DEA to trace transnational networks of traffickers and money handlers used by large drug cartels. Information acquired through the program was also used for non-narcotics-related investigations, said the paper. However, the two-decade-long program did not utilize court warrants, and was thus very similar to the NSA’s controversial wiretapping scheme revealed by a series of whistleblowers in the years following 9/11. USA Today said the DEA stopped the surveillance program in September of 2013. Shortly after that, said the paper, the database containing the information collected through the program was deliberately purged.

Is US-Mexico anti-drug intelligence cooperation about to end?

Enrique Peña NietoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Some senior American officials believe that the anti-drug intelligence cooperation between the United States and Mexico is in its closing stages, following tens of thousands of deaths in the past decade. Intelligence cooperation between the two countries reached unprecedented levels in the post-9/11 era, following the establishment of the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In the past decade, cooperation between Mexico’s Center for Research and National Security (CISEN) and ODNI, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, resulted in what some observers call “unprecedented bilateral action” directed against Latin American narcotics cartels. This arrangement culminated under the administration of Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón, when the CIA —and to a lesser extent the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Security Agency— were given unprecedented access to Mexican territory and civilian communications networks. However, in an extensive article published Sunday, The Washington Post says the close operational connection between Mexican and US intelligence agencies is quickly winding down. Citing interviews with over “four dozen current and former US and Mexican diplomats, law enforcement agents, military offices and intelligence officials”, the paper suggests that Mexico City is wary about Washington’s involvement in the so-called ‘war on drugs’. The major change on the Mexican side, says The Post, occurred last December with the inauguration of Mexico’s new President, Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has returned to power after 13 years in opposition. Under Nieto’s administration, the Mexican security establishment, worn out by over 60,000 deaths and as many as 25,000 forced disappearances in the past few years, is intent on shifting its priorities. Instead of focusing on so-called ‘beheading operations’ —arresting or otherwise neutralizing the leadership of drug cartels— it has decided to stabilize the situation by containing —rather than eliminating— the operations of drug networks. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #449

  • Damning report on CIA attack on missionary plane. US Central Intelligence Agency officers involved with a secret counternarcotics mission in the Peruvian jungle routinely violated agency procedures, tried to cover up their mistakes, and misled Congress immediately after a missionary plane was accidentally shot down in 2001, according to a blistering CIA internal report released on Monday.
  • Israeli legislators call on US to release Jewish spy. Members of the Israeli Knesset are calling on US President Barack Obama to pardon American-born spy Jonathan Pollard, having been jailed in a maximum-security facility since 1985. George Bush refused to pardon Pollard in the last days of his presidency.
  • Analysis: Britain’s MI6 operates a bit differently than CIA. “Like the CIA, MI6 has a website, but while the U.S. agency site is only in English, MI6’s is also in Arabic, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese. Another sign of British sophistication: while the CIA site has games and quizzes for kids, the MI6 site gives short tests to allow potential recruits to assess their analytical and administrative skills”. Interesting comparative assessment by Walter Pincus.

Congress briefing on CIA activities halted after officials refuse to take oath

Gloria Luttig

Gloria Luttig

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US Congressional briefing on the CIA was unexpectedly halted on Wednesday, after Justice Department officials refused to take the oath. The briefing, by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, concerned the April 20, 2001 shooting down by the CIA of a Cessna 185 floatplane, which was suspected of transporting drugs from Colombia to Peru. The plane was actually carrying an American Christian missionary family, including two children, who were on their way to Lima, Peru. The attack on the plane resulted in the death of the mother and one of the children. As intelNews reported in November of 2008, a still-classified report by the Office of the US Inspector General concluded that the murder of the two Americans resulted from routine violation of intercept procedures by CIA operatives. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0132

  • Emirates to deport Syrian ex-spy and witness in Hariri assassination probe. A Syrian former spy was on Monday sentenced to six months in jail and deportation for entering the United Arab Emirates on a forged Czech passport. Interestingly, Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq, was a prosecution witness in the inquiry into the assassination of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafiq Hariri. In 2005, Siddiq claimed that Lebanon’s former pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, gave the order to kill anti-Syrian Hariri. It is not clear to which country Siddiq will be deported.
  • US national security advisor insists Iran cannot currently build the bomb. US National Security Advisor General James Jones has rejected claims by The New York Times that Iraq has enough information to design and build a functional nuclear bomb. Jones also stood by the conclusions of the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate, which said Iran’s nuclear arms program is inactive.
  • Book claims CIA-linked network killed anti-drugs campaigner. A new book by Australian researcher John Jiggens claims that a CIA-linked drug smuggling network was responsible for the 1977 murder of Australian anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay.

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News you may have missed #0129

  • Romanian communist spy boss dead at 80. General Nicolae Plesita, who directed Romania’s Securitate during the country’s communist period, has died. While heading the Securitate’s foreign intelligence service, from 1980 to 1984, Plesita hired the Venezuelan-born operative Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, to assassinate Romanian dissidents in France and bomb the US-owned Radio Free Europe offices in Munich, in 1981. In 1998, Plesita revealed that he had orders from the Romanian government to find temporary shelter for Carlos in Romania after the RFE bombing.
  • Settlement reached in DEA-CIA spying dispute. A tentative settlement has been reached in a lawsuit brought 15 years ago by a former US Drug Enforcement Administration agent who accused a CIA operative of illegally bugging his home. In a court filing, lawyers for the government and the DEA agent said they “had reached an agreement in principle to settle the underlying litigation”. See here for previous intelNews coverage of this case.
  • Federal judge denies request for CIA secret documents. Hundreds of documents detailing the CIA’s defunct overseas secret detention program of suspected terrorists, including extreme interrogation methods have remained secret after U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on Wednesday refused to release them “in order to protect intelligence methods and sources”. The ACLU argues that the CIA secret program was illegal under international and US law, that it involved the torture and deaths of some inmates, and therefore should not be shielded from public view.

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