Government plays down real crisis

Published 3:27 pm Wednesday, October 27, 2010

By Wayne P.Goodnature

In late October, CBS 5 News obtained a confidential Department of Homeland Security e-mail addressed to law enforcement in southern Arizona. The e-mail, sent in early May, said the DHS believed Mexican cartels planned to send specially trained and equipped assassins into Vekol Valley, Ariz.

The DHS email was strongly worded and full of detail. They agency had unmistakably infiltrated a high-level meeting attended by representative of several cartels, called to deal with major drug losses through robberies of cartel couriers in the Vekol Valley. The Vekol Valley is in Pinal County 70 miles north of the border and close to two major freeways. The rest of the email reads like a military strike plan, or a CIA plot to attack some strategic target.

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The plan hatched by the cartels would send decoy couriers with fake drug bales through regular Vekol Valley routes. Cartel spotters already positioned in the hills and mountains of the Vekol Valley would warn of any approach made by suspected robbers. Once the robbers made their move the cartel assassins would take out the robbers.

Although DHS said the information was form, “a proven credible confidential source,” no warning was ever issued to the public. Instead the DHS sent a confidential e-mail for law enforcement agencies only. Within weeks, the Federal Bureau of Land Management erected 15 warning signs in southern Arizona including Vekol Valley. The DHS has not said whether their confidential source’s information was the impetus for the signs. In any case, the warning signs did not alert citizens of assassins, only that “Illegals or drug smugglers might be encountered on national lands and parks.”

Pinal County has more than 325,000 residents, and over a million live in the surrounding areas. Vekol Valley may sound remote, but it lies between two populated Arizona cities containing schools, churches, homes and recreation areas. Why would the Department of Homeland Security not consider assassins traveling into the U.S. to commit murder worthy of strong warnings? Would it not warrant a higher national threat level?

CBS 5’s exposure of the DHS confidential e-mail has opened up a firestorm of comments between the Pinal County Sheriff and Matthew Chandler, a spokesman with DHS’s media relations office in Washington. Chandler admitted to KGUN9’s Jessica Chapin that DHS sent out the advisory in May.

But in an e-mail to her, he wrote, “This particular information proved to be inaccurate. At this time, DHS does not have any specific, credible information on intra-cartel violence taking place in Arizona.” Mr. Chandler has not yet revealed when DHS had determined the information was inaccurate, or if the original May 2010 e-mail to law enforcement had been updated.

Chandler’s comments are astonishing when you consider that two drug couriers were murdered in the Vekol Valley on June 11. The killer or killers murdered the two couriers and stole their drugs. However, were they really couriers or were they robbers killed by the assassins sent to deal with this very issue? At the time Pinal County’s sheriff suspected a rival drug gang, but the internet was also ablaze with speculative rumors that militia members operating in the area may have been involved. The murders have never been solved. A little over five weeks prior to the drug courier murders, a Pinal County deputy was also shot and wounded in the same area while pursuing drug couriers. Or were they assassins?

Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona and current Director of Homeland Security, testified at a Senate panel on April 28, 2010, that “I know that border I think as well as anyone, and I will tell you it is as secure now as it has ever been.” Within days of Napolitano’s comments her agency sent out the assassins e-mail warning.

I have a very good friend who, when she is overwhelmed and cannot think of anything to say, exclaims, “Oh, my Hell”! So here goes: “Oh, my Hell!” The disconnect among Homeland Security, border reality, local law enforcement and the public is stunning.

I have been receiving email comments and questions concerning my articles in the Austin Daily Herald, “Reports from the Border.” I enjoy hearing your opinions and fielding questions no matter what they are. A recent reader’s e-mail echoed an important point when he wrote, “How confused and impotent one feels when it comes to the issue of immigration.”

I believe the writer’s statement is representative of how many citizens feel no matter what side of almost any public issue they are concerned with. Our government is putting us all in the position of actually being confused and unable to take action, while they are anything but confused and impotent.

The standard American solution to this dilemma has always been to study the issues, express your opinion to your representative, and vote. How has that solution been working for us?

I have found my own solution to being confused and unable to take action. I have been taking action on my own, much like men and women did when our country was younger. The results thus far: I feel like an American again! I am not suggesting that everyone do this; however, I am suggesting that you find your own desert, and do what you can to remove the confusion and feeling of impotency on your own. It actually works. I promise, if nothing else it will help keep you from repeating, “Oh, my Hell,” all the time.

Wayne Goodnature is a former Mower County sheriff who now lives in Arizona. Send comments and questions to