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Feds Call Meeting with Journalist Who Reported Human Remains and Cartel Weapon Build up with U.S. TiesTim King Salem-News.com
Salem-News.com's Tosh Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot, believes he may have opened a door to an international weapons smuggling operation.
(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - Earlier this week we told you about serious developments in the cartel border wars that involve American forces operating in Mexico. The article presented information concerning smuggling operations to various criminal organizations operating in northern Mexico. This operation appears to be directly associated with the U.S. government's -- little known--weapons sales program to foreign governments. This program is known as the Direct Commercial Sales Program (DCS).
Our Photojournalist, Robert 'Tosh' Plumlee, has been carefully documenting evidence that while not conclusive, demonstrates that a massive cover up is taking place to shield an international weapons sales program. Although this is not conclusive, a preponderance, of evidence accumulated over a three year investigation, strongly indicates international arms merchants are working the borders of northern Mexico.
Friday morning at 8:30 a.m., at a Border Patrol office used for interrogations in Las Cruces, N.M., Mr. Plumlee will sit down with Border Patrol Intelligence personnel from each of the area sectors for what he assumes will be, a debriefing-- If this is indeed what takes place. Mr. Plumlee intends to share information with the Border Patrol intelligence unit concerning details obtained from a three-year independent investigation into corruption and gun running along New Mexico's southern border.
This meeting is for the sole purpose of aiding Border Patrol's intelligence network on background information concerning an ongoing gun running operations through their jurisdictions. This information is being freely given by Mr. Plumlee, for the sole purpose of assimilating the data and forwarding it to the various agencies for proper investigation.
If this is not what takes place, then there are only a couple of possibilities. That is why it is important that this event is documented before it takes place. Surely those who may have ill motives know that Tosh's information is in several locations, not one or two. Of course we are familiar with the meeting location in Las Cruces.
Mr. Plumlee spent his life in service of the U.S. government as a deep cover CIA asset. His primary role as a commercial pilot involved the shipments of weapons and drugs in what became known as, the infamous, 'Iran-Contra Affair', of the mid eighties.
For decades, the U.S. government was involved in funding and often launching and participating, in revolutions and overthrows of Latin American governments that were not considered to be in the best interests of United States foreign policy.
Somehow, this country shifted policy from excessive force and political control south of its border, to facilitating the most dangerous drug cartels in Mexico's history, right on the doorstep of the United States of America.
Tosh has been in the area reading the warning signs and accompanying the joint-military team for three years, ever since a U.S. military officer from Fort Bliss, Texas, who is part of a sanctioned undercover operation, contacted Tosh saying they were concerned that their operations inside Mexico were being compromised by elements, he believed, from the U.S. federal government operating out of Washington D.C. The officer, a full bird colonel and a long time friend of Plumlee's, asked for his help in getting various aspects of the operation's existence into the public domain. This officer wanted the public to know what they were doing, or trying to do, with the help of dedicated Mexican Marines who Tosh says are professionals with a low level of corruption, unlike elements of the Mexican Army, where corruption is not always, but can be rampant.
Tosh has accompanied this team across the border on several occasions, and he was in the company of these American soldiers--while they were working, covertly, in a civilian capacity with the Mexican authorities inside Mexico, tracking down large weapons stockpiled in the Juarez area. The timeframe for these operations spanned from 2009 through this year.
Still, in spite of his three years working in the area, conducting research and taking pictures, reporting his findings to proper authorities, and contributing to Salem-News.com and Narco News, he was advised recently that the State Department had sent out a memo to various federal agencies that they wanted Mr. Plumlee arrested if he crossed the border again without clearing through an official border checkpoint. (a ridiculous request in view of the nature of the Intel information which could be gathered and documented and perhaps used in our National Defense policies)
The Border Patrol agents who reluctantly advised Mr. Plumlee of this development on 15 June 2011, did so at the border fence-- near a place known as El Rancho Escondido, located a few hundred yards inside Mexico. Tosh had been asked, by his friend the colonel, to accompany the Mexican military on a raid on the Escondido Ranch, said by the Mexican authorities to be vacant and abandoned.
Some members of law enforcement, and the local Border Patrol, have stated for years that they felt illegal activity was taking place at this ranch, but none were never able to get solid information regarding these alleged illegal operations. The local people from Columbus, New Mexico, and Palomas, Mexico, also felt that illegal activity was being conducted at the ranch by elements of the Los Zetas Cartel and in some cases, these suspicions were reported to local law enforcement in Columbus, New Mexico and to the Mexican Army in Palomas, Mexico.
On 15 June, Mr. Plumlee was going to attempt to place tracking devices on two trucks, allegedly being used to move weapons from the ranch to another area controlled by the Los Zetas. This would then allow the joint Task Force and Mexican Marines to follow the cartel vehicle's movement as they left the ranch.
The U.S. government's arrest threat prevented Tosh from being able to do this, and he says his military contact in Mexico was extremely upset. So without that added level of tracking, and Tosh being frozen in place by the actions of the State Department, the U.S. Army Colonel decided to have the Mexican army and Marines launch an airborne raid on the ranch, which they did.
Here is where it gets interesting. Tosh told the Border Patrol agents about the operation, and as it turns out, five Border Patrol agents and their trucks were sent out to be a visible presence on the border road. Drivers of the trucks suspected to be en route to deliver the U.S. weapons, reportedly saw the Border Patrol agents, and instead of continuing to the suspected drop off destination, turned around and aborted their mission.
The JOINT TASK FORCE, Mexican Marines raided the ranch, as the Americans monitored the operation from Palomas Mexico--and Tosh could only watch, with the Border Patrol, from the U.S. side of the border, at the fence mile mark #20.
Any further activity instigated by Tosh in an attempt to record and photo the actual raid on Mexican soil was stopped by the threat of arrest by Federal agents. Of course the weapons delivery had been thwarted.
He did take a number of clear pictures of the Blackhawk helicopter orbiting over the ranch as Mexican attack teams moved in; a water tower in the area verifies the location, as well as pictures taken at the border fence. Like in so many cases, the photos were time/date stamp which proves they were taken at the described time.
It was about this time that Tosh learned from Task Force members that a request from Washington had been received asking that any future field reports about alleged dead bodies, or buried weapons being found on the U.S. side of the border, be toned down in style.
The information as presented was not the type of information they wanted to hear. They wanted reports that were, "more in line with administrative policy". ".... We don't want Mexico any more upset than they already are".
Bodies and Weapons in the Desert
So instead, from the way it appears, the U.S. was choosing to withhold information from Mexican President Felipe de Jesús Calderón about these very serious problems.
We know from Tosh's account and many others, that there are in fact large stores of U.S. weapons that are the latest types, including grenades, rocket launchers, mortars and anti-aircraft weapons, in strategic storage locations in Mexico.
The meeting Tosh is asked to attend with federal officials Friday initially involved the State Department, Department of Justice and the Border Patrol Intelligence agents from the different sectors. Now Tosh is told the State Dept. and the DOJ will not attend.
There are many bizarre events taking place simultaenously that cause Tosh and other journalists following the cartel wars to believe there is a repeat pattern at play. It isn't good. The more Plumlee learns about weapons smuggling and existing supplies of arms already in Mexico, the more Tosh believes he is beginning to see the fingerprints of a ' secret CIA' mission -- a CIA black ops - it would make sense, knowing the CIA's past track record, that a major smuggling operation would be the design of this federal agency. Friday will be a very interesting day for Tosh and the rest of the nation.
In our earlier report, we revealed how Tosh has been witness to huge stashes of weapons under cartel control. Along with the weapon supplies are knock off (Fake) Mexican army uniforms.
A few other things we know:
The Columbus 11
The Columbus city officials who are suspects in the weapons smuggling ring known as the 'Columbus 11', include the one suspect still at large, the city's mayor, police chief, and village trustee; shown on the right. Those arrested and charged include two city councilors and several others. Among them was the gun shop owner who allegedly facilitated the process.
Columbus Police Chief Angelo Vega
Mayor Eddie Espinoza
Blas Gutierrez, village trustee
Ignacio Villalobos, 24, of Columbus
Ian Garland, 50, of Chaparral, N.M.
Alberto Rivera, 40, of Columbus
Miguel Carrillo, 30, of Columbus
Ricardo Gutierrez, 25, of Columbus
Manuel Ortega, 25, of Palomas, Mexico
Vicente Carreon, 26, of Columbus
Eva Lucie Gutierrez, 21, of Las Cruces.
According to the indictment: between January 2010 and March 2011, the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to purchase firearms for illegal export to Mexico. Over a 14-month period, the indictment states, the defendants purchased approximately 200 firearms from Chaparral Guns, which was owned and operated by defendant Ian Garland.
The weapons purchased are the type favored by the Mexican cartels according to reports. They include a number of AK-47 variants, as well as tactical 9 mm pistols manufactured in the U.S. It is alleged in the indictment that defendants obtained firearms from Chaparral Guns through false claims of actually purchasing the firearms, when in reality they were filling the role of “straw purchasers': who buy the firearms on behalf of others.
ATF agents later complained over their frustration at having to simply monitor and do nothing as the gun sales took place. There is no doubt that each single weapon sent through the bizarre U.S. program to Mexican cartels will be used to claim lives. In this case one of the lives was Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, a former U.S. Marine who was attached to a special highly trained element of the Border Patrol. He was a front line fighter all the way but surely never believed he would die from a gun his own country funneled to the narco and weapon smuggler cartel.
President Obama made comments in March that suggested he was concerned, then denied any possible knowledge of the operation during an interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos, instead discussing about how "big the government is", suggesting that he is unaware of very serious operations like this one, that facilitated the delivery of hundreds of weapons to violent cartel members. He clearly denied having authorized the operation and he said the same of the Attorney General.
Ramos: "Did you authorize this operation and was President Phillipe Calderon properly notified about it?"In May, Eric Holder was questioned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa about what has become known as the "gunwalker" controversy, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is said to have allowed U.S. gun sales to criminals in Mexico.
Federal agents have testified that they could only watch as hundreds of guns were purchased, then illegally resold and transported to Mexico where drug-related violence has claimed thousands of lives in recent years.
ATF agents in Arizona told the House of Representatives Oversight Committee they were instructed not to make any arrests of the so-called straw buyers, but to keep with the plan to discover where the guns went.
Outrage was expressed by both Republicans and Democrats on the panel over "Operation Fast and Furious". They demanded answers from the Obama administration about why arrests were secondary to tracking the firearms, but received little information in return.
Taking a very direct, if not adversarial approach, Issa questioned Holder about how and why this was ever allowed to happen, and Holder replied that the operation was part of a bigger scheme.
Then yesterday, 29 June 2011, at the regular White House press conference, President Obama seriously skirted the subject that was only brought up once, and by a Mexican reporter at that - no reporters from the U.S. so much as asked about the operation:
You can follow the link to see the entire press conference, and you should take note of how long the President continues to talk about immigration reform before finally allowing another question, which is not noted, apparently inaudible, but clearly a continuation of the same curiosity; about the Fast and Furious operation.
However this apparent disregard of interest in the weapons smuggling case by the president was far from unnoticed. This statement was released by Congressman Issa after yesterday's press conference:
"President Obama's remarks today on Operation Fast and Furious were disappointing. He expressed no urgency to provide answers or explain why no one at the Justice Department, six months after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry's murder, has accepted responsibility for authorizing an illegal gunwalking operation. The American people expect more from the President than unsubstantiated assertions that the Attorney General didn't know about this reckless program and no explanation about who authorized it."
Getting Away With Murder?
Needless to say, the tragic loss of Agent Brian Terry attaches both a human face and a level of grave consequence to this story of apparent federal and international deception.
As Congressman Darrell Issa cited, the only arrests that occurred as a result of this costly and deadly operation were the Columbus 11.
In spite of the severity of the allegations; weapon smuggling that led to the death of Agent Terry, and more, there is information that came to our attention, that the Columbus 11 are going to plea bargain. This is not confirmed, but our source says the report is real.
Why on earth would prosecutors choose to plea bargain a case of this magnitude that led to the death of a Border Patrol agent?
Just as curiosity soars over the possibility of these trusted officials and the other suspects avoiding responsibility for their actions, The Las Cruces Sun-News published today that the federal trial against the Columbus 11, will no longer be prosecuted by the New Mexico U.S. Attorney's Office. The venue has been changed and handed over to federal prosecutors in El Paso. The switch to Texas happened Friday.
Defense attorney C.J. McElhinney confirmed the change, but along with the U.S. Attorney's Office, stopped short of explaining why. A public affairs officer named Elizabeth M. Martinez with the New Mexico office, confirmed that the move is "definitely unusual", the Sun-News reported.
According to the newspaper article, "Neither U.S. Attorney's Office was immediately available to comment Wednesday on whether any employee of their offices has been investigated for possible wrongdoing in the case".
While one of the 11 suspects remains at large, the defendants in custody have all pleaded not guilty to the 84-count indictment. (see: El Paso office to work on Columbus gun case - By Ashley Meeks email@example.com)
Tosh says the operation in Columbus supplied not only the Los Zetas, but their rivals, "The Columbus 11 started filtering and playing the cartel's contacts. They had set up their own independent gun running operation, which were separate from the Zetas".
Plumlee was also informed that in addition to an alleged pending plea bargain, these suspected crooked city officials and their alleged fellow operators would be entered into a plea bargain and possible into the Federal Witness Protection Program. Where that will stand-- with relation to the change in federal venue-- remains to be seen.
With regard to weapons smuggling in the bigger picture, Tosh believes the Columbus 11 would be small change if it weren't for the consequences including Agent Terry's death. Either way, if they are doing this in a city responsible for border security, you have to wonder what may be taking place in the other U.S. border towns and municipalities located along the 1,967 mile border with Mexico.
Plumlee has said on numerous occasions, "The Dept. of Justice, Homeland Security, and The State Department; have all had this information before Brian Terry was murdered by the guns that were associated with this operation".
He asks, "Why isn't the committee asking questions about this piror knowledge, which has been documented before the fact months before the operation of Fast and Furious was launched or investigated?"
Plumlee has his suspicions, and says the operation in the New Mexico port town is just a snapshot of a much larger picture.
Yet it is highly significant because the smuggling action all seems to be gravitating toward Columbus where properties and broken down houses are selling for well above average prices.
Tosh attributes this to Los Zetas Cartel members that have increasingly been moving into Columbus and unlike the Pancho Villa days, they don't simply raid this small town and flee, they are residents.
Based on his research, Tosh Plumlee believes authorities are not just ignoring evidence of human remains in the desert, he says they are getting ready to plow over these body dumpling grounds with the new Columbus/Palomas bypass.
It is an expensive project associated with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); a political football from the Clinton era that has sharply divided Americans.
The El Paso Times reported earlier this month, that the Construction on the two-lane roadway with one-turning-lane bypass was approximately 70 percent complete.
Luna County is the project's acting fiscal agent, responsible for the roughly $4.2 million provided by both state and federal agencies for the project, and also for handing contracts.
New Mexico's Department of Transportation contributed about $2.2 million to the project, slated to be completed by 31 December of this year.
El Paso Times quotes a Luna County special projects coordinator named Rheganne Vaughn, explaining that the project is about a mile long, and includes 6 inches of asphalt that will accommodate the expected heavy truck traffic at the port.
Under the current layout, trucks have to wait in line with all other non-commercial vehicles as the cars and trucks are inspected before entering the U.S. (see: Columbus, New Mexico truck bypass project almost finished by Matt Robinson - Deming Headlight / El Paso Times)
Tosh says there is not what he would describe as a pressing need for relieving the traffic.
He says the bottom line is that because there are unrecovered and almost certainly undiscovered human remains in this area that have been documented and reported, the project must halt before any more evidence has been destroyed. Plumlee says he is pretty sure the project has covered areas that also had human remains.
I covered the border NAFTA stories several times while working for the NBC station in Yuma, Arizona, KYMA Channel-11, in 1995 and 1996; noting even then the problems created by the vast changes in trade policy.
Most Mexican trucks at that time were still made of heavy steel while U.S. models were lightweight aluminum. This greatly reduced the amount of weight the older trucks were allowed to carry over the scales, posing a disadvantage to Mexican truckers that many considered unfair.
What I really remember about those NAFTA stories though is the same thing I noted while watching Marines in Iraq inspect all of the semi-trucks passing through a section of the Anbar Province; they really only can physically inspect a small amount of what passes through.
Making matters worse, Mr. Plumlee has evidence that someone actually removed evidence from one of the sites, after it was reported to officials in Luna County, New Mexico.
As you see in the first photo, there is what appears to be a human bone protruding from the ground with the tattered remnants of a blue denim jacket.
It was upon seeing and documenting this, that Plumlee reported his findings to the Luna County Sheriff's Office.
He was told by investigators that they had looked at the site and didn't continue to investigate because they believed the clothing was simply dumped by migrants who often change into a different set of clothes after crossing into the U.S.
Tosh said, "What I would ask though, is why anyone would cross at that site? The border fence is 12 feet high there, but only a mile down it is four feet and easy to scale".
Tosh contacted a local TV station and their crew expressed interest in the site, but the Luna County Sheriff investigators were able to convince the reporter that the site was just a pile of old clothing deposited by people illegally crossing the border.
Tosh returned to the site and discovered that the clothing was still there, but somebody or something, had removed the visible alleged human remains. In his world, this type of operation is known as sanitizing graves. It's anything but a new game for investigators.
Exactly how this happened is not known, but the disappearance of the visible bones that Tosh says appeared to be human, seemed anything but coincidental.
Bypass Approaches Body Dumping Sites
It certainly seems plausible that unknown powers to be, may be fearful of a body dumping zone placing a damper on the otherwise fast moving construction project; the freeway bypass, which Tosh says will simply become a portal for more smuggling.
They're right about how it will and should halt the project. The Governor's office in New Mexico is It is their obligation to ensure that discoveries of human remains are reported and investigated, recovered, etc.
Removing the visible above ground bones was likely not a difficult task for anyone briefed on the site's location.
It is a fact that both archaeological and crime-related burial discoveries can add months or more to a construction schedule.
That type of setback of course translates to increased costs, and there is no doubt that construction crews in these events sometimes look the other way when confronted with suspected human remains.
But human beings should never be regarded this way, alive or dead, and surely if the construction site was headed by the parent or child of a Missing Person, they would probably see things differently.
In Tosh's opinion, there is no question that law enforcement needs to do its job and investigate these documented human remains discoveries in the border region and he questions why any of them would be hesitant, particularly with so many unresolved Missing Person cases in the region and in the United States and abroad.
The reason I know and work with Tosh Plumlee, is because of our group's research into what we believe, was the Murder of a Marine fighter pilot, Col. Jim Sabow, who blew the whistle after being informed that shipments of drugs were being flown into his base, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in Southern California, in non-authorized late night landings, in 1990.
This is years after the Iran/Contra hearings and the resolve they obviously failed to bring to the drugs for weapons program, which involved supplying arms to pro-U.S. forces in places like Nicaragua and Panama.
As previously mentioned in this article, Tosh was involved in the early part of this program as a pilot, but then later gave important testimony that exposed the clandestine programs headed by the disgraced former Marine officer Ollie North, under former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
I mention this because I want people to understand the person Tosh is as he approaches the meeting with federal officials Friday morning. We prefer to lay it all out on the table and that everything we are exposing, discussing and writing about, is part of a pursuit to see both truth and justice have their day.
Murder victims lying in the open, rotting and baking in the sun, in some cases their bones are scattered by animals, others are partly buried, some were never buried. Their clothes almost always remain, yet their stories are completely invisible and can take on no depth or sense of reality until law enforcement officials stop worrying about hassling trusted Americans who only help others, like Tosh, and get their teams into the field and do what is expected of them by the letter of the law as well as the spirit of the law, that is if there still is one.
When Tosh was first contacted by federal authorities advising of their need to see him, he was told they would meet at his home. He was advised by sources in Washington DC that he should have an attorney present. Then Tosh was informed of the change in meeting locations. He says he is concerned for his safety if it is true that he penetrated a CIA operation, similar to the Iran/Contra operation years ago. We are concerned also.
The State Dept. sent a message to Border Patrol intel that Tosh should be arrested immediately if he crossed the border again into the United States from Mexico without checking in at the border station. Since he was advised, Tosh has not crossed the border again. When he did before, he was working with the joint U.S./Mexican joint-military Task Force 7.
While there does appear to be an effort to discredit Robert Plumlee at this time, his past is well documented and his exploits are legendary.
Regardless of what he did for a living, Tosh is no spook today; far from it, though he can likely spot one before most people ever could.
So what can you do?
Funny you should ask; I suggest taking the time to contact the New Mexico Governor's Office and ask them what they are doing to ensure these grave sites are thoroughly investigated and that the alleged human remains are recovered, particularly before the construction project reaches the area. Mr. Plumlee says he is sure remains have already been covered by the bypass project.
Contact information for New Mexico's Governor and Attorney General
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez's office
Don't stop there, call New Mexico's other elected officials; particularly those in the U.S. Congress and Senate. Stop the bypass, start the investigation...
Details about this military operation are available in our last report, the link is here. (see: Is Los Zetas Military Cartel Planning a Bloody Revolution in Mexico? - Tim King Salem-News.com)
We will contact Congressman Issa's office today and do what we can to assure that Tosh's upcoming meeting has the proper amount of attention from the politicians standing up against Holder and Obama's near stonewall of the failed Fast and Furious operation.
Other source and references:
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