Kimberly Dvorak from The Examiner reports that the Obama Administration ignored multiple warnings by Border Patrol Agents and local police that said a wilderness reserve plan would result in national security breaches and deaths. The murder of Agent Brian Terry and the death of Agent Nicolas Ivie – now “officially” ruled a killing by “friendly fire” – subsequently occurred in such wilderness areas.
In early 2010, New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman introduced legislation (S. 1689) to expand the number of areas designated as wilderness zones along the U.S./Mexico border. He said his goal was to protect the landscape from development and preserve current recreational uses. However, the proposal drew immediate opposition from the Border Patrol and local police over the restrictions it imposed on patrolling in wilderness zones.
Bingaman’s legislation died in the Senate but emails and supporting evidence compiled by Ms. Dvorak suggest that the Administration proceeded with the wilderness designation plans despite knowledge of national security problems and Agent safety issues, including bounties that drug cartels placed on Agents and local police.
The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officials secured information on the Administration’s internal debate over the plans by submitting a number of freedom of information requests. Ms. Dvorak reports that emails and documents she saw confirmed opposition by Border Agents and local law enforcement officials. She also reports that the emails showed the Obama administration was more concerned with protecting the wilderness zones than its agents in the field.
A document dated May 4, 2010 said, “If completely realized, the restrictions of the WD (wilderness) will re-define the very nature of how the objectives and elements of the National Strategy are carried out in pursuit of gaining operational control of our nation’s borders.”
One email dated May 18, 2010 said “Santa Teresa (BP) Office is aware of problems of WSA/WA (wilderness areas). These environmental protections (WA) severely limit BP’s (Border Patrol) ability to carry out its National Security Mission along the international border and surrounding area…The wilderness areas has (sic) strict access requirements and covers a large area where enforcement capabilities are limited.”
Another Border Patrol Agent said, “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? No. That means one thing…Border Patrol will not be patrolling.”
An email by Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos said the wilderness designation would “hamstring effective law enforcement.” One by Hidalgo County Sheriff Saturnino Madero said it would be “highly inadvisable” to place such restrictions on his officers. Another by Dona Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison said it would be “the height of folly to place such restrictions on law enforcement in this border area.”
Agencies were already widening the range of wilderness zones in July of 2010 when a warning went out via email concerning opposition to the project. The email said, “sit back on it, it is a very sensitive issue of late.” But the project continued after it was apparent that Bingaman’s legislation would not pass. Then Agent Terry was murdered in a wilderness-area shootout in December 2011.
Commenting on the new evidence, Pinal County Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu said, “We now have further evidence that the Obama administration at every level thinks the border situation is entirely acceptable. They lack full border enforcement security within designated wilderness areas (and) that risks our border patrol agents and law enforcement deputies safety…(CBP Commissioner) 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…It should not be a surprise 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 (issue) and say we make this political.”
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Updated: Thu, Oct 11th 2012 @ 2:04pm EDT