As the investigation into the Oct. 4 shooting of two border patrol agents continues, an Arizona borderlands sheriff condemned President Barack Obama for treating turmoil and danger caused by his policies as acceptable risk.
“We now have further evidence that the Obama administration at every level thinks the border situation is entirely acceptable,” said Pinal County Sheriff Paul R. Babeu, whose jurisdiction is nearby Cochise County, where the agents were shot and one, Nicolas Ivie, was killed, although the shooting was actually on federal lands designated by the Interior Department as environmental sanctuaries, and thus off-limits to both federal and local law enforcement officers.
Babeu said he has read documents that contained exchanges where Obama officials acknowledge that creating environment areas will create zones of lawlessness.
“They lack full border enforcement security within designated wilderness areas that risks our border patrol agents and law enforcement deputies’ safety,” said the native of North Adams, Mass.
“The responsibility for securing this international border is the core primary responsibility of the United States government and I believe the federal government has failed to do that,” said Babeu, whose county lies outside of Phoenix, 70 miles north of the border.
“They have failed to adequately protect the citizens of my county and my state. That threat to our country is not just the volumes of illegals and drug cartels, but more importantly, the threat that is posed when people of countries of interest cross our borders,” he said.
These people harbor or sponsor terrorism and are not friendly to the United States,” the sheriff said, who as an Arizona National Guardsman, deployed to Iraq and commanded a battalion-sized border task force.
“Leadership failed and everything I’ve learned as a rank-and-file police officer, Army private and field grade officer; whoever’s in charge is responsible in the end,” he said.
Babeu said Atty. Gen Eric H. Holder Jr., must be held responsible for Justice Department failures on his watch, including the failed Fast and Furious scandal.
“Whether he knew it or whether he should have known, Eric Holder created an environment and a dynamic that resulted in the murder of not only one agent that we can prove, but also hundreds of Mexicans have been killed with Fast and Furious weapons,” he said.
“This guy was not held accountable; he has not resigned so he should be fired. I believe he, and others in the government, should be held accountable even criminally,” he said.
Documents cited by the sheriff and made available to this reporter buttress Babeu’s charges and depict administration officials as determined to leverage federal environmental regulatory authority to open up the Mexican borderlands regardless of warnings from border patrol agents assigned to the region, local law enforcement, activist groups and border region ranchers.
These warnings by personnel with ties to the borderland, made through emails, meetings and videotapes, specifically cited threat to national security breaches and homicidal violence.
The documents prove that Obama officials were aware of national security issues, agent safety issues, bounties placed on Border Patrol agents by drug cartels, and the trafficking of drugs and humans.
Heavily redacted emails acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Association of Former Border Patrol Agents, confirm that before the Dec. 14. 2010 death of Brian A. Terry, a member of the elite Border Patrol Tactical Unit, parties to the inter-agency planning for the wilderness sanctuaries, including officials from Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Interior, congressional representatives were warned about national security and law enforcement concerns regarding the sanctuaries.
Some of the personnel taking part in exchanges captured in the documents: David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection; Michael J. Fisher, chief of Border Patrol, Sen. Jesse F. “Jeff” Bingaman (D.-N.M); Alan D. Bersin, then-CBP commissioner and previously dubbed the “border czar” because of his international affairs portfolio at Interior and then-Rep. Mark E. Udall (D.-Colo.), who is now a senator and is a native of Arizona.
In one email, a border patrol agent said it was ridiculous to suggest that the human traffickers, or coyotes, would not use the wilderness areas as safe passage for their crimes.
“Do you really think that the coyotes or drug cartels are going to read a little sign in English/Spanish declaring it is unlawful to enter a federal preserve?” he said. “No. That means one thing to these banditos, Border Patrol will not be patrolling.”
Federal officials were also told that the creation of wilderness reserves in the Mexican borderlands would facilitate the “bounty program,” where Mexican crime organizations incentivized smugglers to kill agents and other law enforcement officers.
Babeu said the bounties should have been a top priority for the Obama administration.
“The primary concern for agents is, of course, the bounties placed on their lives for patrolling the border. Justice for murdered agents is extraordinarily slow; the Terry family is still waiting for his murder to reach a trial and government officials to be held accountable,” he said.
“When it was discovered that the New Orleans Saints football team coaches put bounties on the heads of opposing players, the league held the coaches responsible and they were rightly disciplined,” he said.
Babeu said in his dealings with Bersin, it was clear he favored environmental considerations over national security and public safety.
In a July 2010 video watched by this reporter, Bersin said to a questioner that he was aware of the bounty program, including a $250,000 prize for a law enforcement officer kidnapped or killed along the southern border.
The sheriff said Bersin, who left office when the Senate refused to confirm his recess appointment to his post, should have done more.
“Bersin and other high level cabinet members acknowledged that there are bounties placed on federal and even local law enforcement members by the drug cartels and what we have seen in Pinal County, which is 70 miles north of the border,” he said.
“This continuation is proof of the threat that illegal immigration and drug smuggling have not subsided,” he said.
“It should not be a surprise that that we have had four Arizona border patrol agents murdered in the last two years and the Obama administration, even some members of the media, do not want us to talk about this and say we make this political,” Babeu said. “These are deaths of our heroes!”
The sheriff said he rejects claims by administration officials, such as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, that the border is more secure and he thinks Washington meddling has made the borderlands more dangerous.
“The four border states risk their lives to a more significant degree than we need to because of the failures of this administration and bureaucrats who make decisions thousands of miles away without our safety and security in mind,” he said.
“Contrary to Janet Napolitano’s proclamations that the border is more secure than ever, last year in October we had the largest drug bust in Arizona history with “operation pipeline express” that netted nearly $3 billion in product, money and weapons that we seized from the Sinaloa drug traffickers,” he said.
Officers’ recovered 108 weapons, including two came tagged as from the Operation Fast and Furious program, he said.
“These were not handguns that our police and sheriffs carry, these were scoped rifles and AK-47s, semi automatic weapons. These are all prohibited processors for violent criminals from a foreign country and they think they own the place,” he said