Bureau of Land Management Covers Its Tracks

By Janice Kephart on October 26, 2010

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), usually a quiet and somewhat backwater federal agency, has now taken its position as a placeholder for an Obama administration desperate to keep appearances up that the southwest border is secure. In a small but politically divisive move, the BLM last night did an operation in the Casa Grande area of the Sonora National Monument about a mile south of the major east-west corridor Interstate 8. The operation? Not to conduct law enforcement operations, but to replace signage that went from a public warning of illegal alien smuggling and drug trafficking and illegal use of weapons and transportation, to this:

The prior signage was criticized for being a "welcome mat" to illegal aliens and drug cartels by former Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Julie Myers Wood. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer even used the signs in a campaign ad that now appears on YouTube, calling them "an outrage" and curtly telling President Obama to "Do your job. Secure our borders." The original signs looked like this:

Yet despite the combination of mockery and anger over the signs throughout America – ironically, it was my guide's pictures of the then-brand-new signs that we took the day I was filming "Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 3: Guns, Drugs and 850 Illegal Aliens" in early June that caused the national stir – all that has been done by the Department of Interior (which owns nearly half the southwest border lands) is to send a man out to replace a sign. No warning about the dangers here in the Casa Grande sector, the most dangerous of the drug corridors to date. No commitment to show up, either, if something occurs – just call 911. In fact, the sign hints that since it is an "Active Federal Law Enforcement Patrol Area," come on in – families, grandparents, anyone can camp knowing the area is patrolled and being cleaned up.

The two prior signs were within a 100 yards of each other. They were strategically located at the top of the pass where Deputy Sheriff Louie Puroll was shot and rescued in April, and two weeks later, two Hispanic drug mules were murdered. Other incidents were related to me, about illegals shooting at stopped motorists on I-8 nearby and a grandfather and grandson dove hunting in this same area, only to be chased and shot at by a truckload of illegal aliens.

Then, last week, the revelation that the Department of Homeland Security had sent out an intelligence report to law enforcement in the area in the spring, warning that assassins were being sent into the Casa Grande/Vekol Valley area by Mexican drug cartel leaders to ambush the bandits known for stealing drug loads. The public was not warned and frankly, if I had known of this particular report when I did my tour, perhaps I would not have done it. Last week, DHS said the report was based on poor intelligence when its existence was revealed, even though the shootings, deaths and our hidden camera films reveal a startling liking to the specific and detailed intelligence in the memo.

Here's the back and forth as related by The Washington Times:

Mexican Assassins Headed to Arizona, U.S. Warned

Drug smuggling gangs in Mexico have sent well-armed assassins, or "sicarios," into Arizona to locate and kill bandits who are ambushing and stealing loads of cocaine, marijuana and heroin headed to buyers in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security has warned Arizona law enforcement authorities.

In a memo sent in May and widely circulated since, the department said: "We just received information from a proven credible confidential source who reported that a meeting was held in Puerto Penasco in which every smuggling organization who utilizes the Vekol Valley was told to attend. This included rival groups within the Guzman cartel." Joaquín Archivaldo Guzman Loera heads what formally is known as the Sinaloa Cartel, which smuggles multi-ton loads of cocaine from Colombia through Mexico to the United States. One of the most powerful and dangerous drug gangs in Mexico, it also is known as the Guzman cartel, which has been tied to the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican marijuana and heroin and has established transshipment outlets in the United States. The Vekol Valley is a widely traveled drug smuggling corridor running across Interstate 8 between the Arizona towns of Casa Grande and Gila Bend, continuing north towards Phoenix. It gives drug smugglers the option of shipping their goods to California or to major cities both north and east.

The Homeland Security memo said a group of "15, very well equipped and armed sicarios complete with bullet proof vests" had been sent into the valley. It said the assassins would be disguised as "groups of 'simulated backpackers' carrying empty boxes covered with burlap into the Vekol Valley to draw out the bandits." Once identified, the memo said, "the sicarios will take out the bandits."The federal government has posted signs along Interstate 8 in the Vekol Valley warning travelers the area is unsafe because of drug and alien smugglers, and the local sheriff says Mexican drug cartels now control some parts of the state."

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," the agency said in a statement released late Friday. "This particular information proved to be inaccurate."

But Sheriff Babeu said there was already a hit carried out by these cartel assassins, when deputies found two men shot to death in the desert earlier this year.

No worries, Arizona. Just call 911 if you have a problem. The Bureau of Land Management is conducting clean-up, and some of that includes covering up its own tracks.