Tom Diaz

Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page


In Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, Transnational crime on May 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm

“I’m beginning to think it’s possible that Hizbollah put a mole in our government. It’s mind-blowing.”

Richard Clarke, former NSC official, comment posted on website of  The Centre [sic] for Counterintelligence and Security Studies.

The latest edition of the Transnational Threats Update from the Center for Strategic and International Studies devotes a section to the expanding global reach of the terrorist para-state Hezbollah.  Here is the introduction:

Hezbollah, founded in 1982 following the Israeli invasion and subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon, has expanded into a global organization spanning several continents. Although Hezbollah is concerned primarily with domestic Lebanese affairs, it has been tied to international acts of terror and is now said to be operating throughout the globe, including in the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East.

“Hezbollah’s Global Reach,” Center for Strategic and International Studies,  Transnational Threats Update, April 2009

There is more of interest from this report — especially about Hezbollah’s operations in the Western Hemisphere — to be read below, but at the outset the CSIS update sets the stage for a review of the intriguing case of FBI special agent and CIA operative Nada Nadim Prouty:

On June 24, 2003, NADA NADIM PROUTY, while employed as a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice, intentionally accessed the FBI Automated Case Support (ACS) computer system to obtain information from a national security investigation being conducted by the FBI’s Detroit, Michigan field office. The case number was DE-74791. The subject matter of the investigation was the designated foreign terrorist organization, Hizballah. Defendant was not assigned to work on Hizballah cases as part of her FBI duties, and she was not authorized by her supervisor, the case agent assigned to the case, or anyone else to access information from the investigation in question. At the time, defendant PROUTY knew that she was permitted to access information from the ACS system for official business only and that the information was available only to persons having a legitimate need to know.

“Factual Basis for Guilty Plea” in Rule 11 Plea Agreement filed on November 13, 2007 in the case of United States of America vs. Nada Nadim Prouty, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Michigan, Docket No. 07-20156

The criminal case of former FBI Special Agent and CIA employee Nada Nadim Prouty is intriguing — to say the least.

Nada Nadim Prouty

Nada Nadim Prouty

The excerpt from her plea agreement (above) describes what some observers suspect was the ultimate act of  a breath-taking penetration of the most sensitive areas of the U.S. government by the Lebanese Shiite terrorist para-state Hezbollah. Anyone who thinks that Prouty’s plea agreement is all there was (or is) to this case might reflect on the stakes here — for both sides.  By copping to three counts (conspiracy, immigration fraud, and unauthorized computer access), Prouty saved herself the inconvenience of a jury trial on all counts and a potentially harsher judgment and sentence.  Her plea also saved the government the embarrassment of airing in public how Hezbollah — through this otherwise obscure Lebanese illegal immigrant — appears to have eaten the lunches of the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service watchdogs, and the counterintelligence arms of the CIA and the FBI.  Trying a case on more serious charges quite likely also would have involved the risks of using classified information that might expose intelligence sources, the methods used, and the information they have yielded about Hezbollah and its leaders. But, it wasn’t just Prouty who was part of the alleged conspiracy.  Here is a relevant excerpt from a short article in Newsweek (“A Tale of Two Women,” November 17, 2007):

The story has a familiar ring: a Lebanese woman arrives in the United States on a student visa, obtains citizenship through a fake marriage, lands a security job with access to government secrets and ends up in court. In November, it was Nada Prouty, who worked for the FBI and CIA and illegally tapped into computer files detailing investigations into Hizbullah activities (her brother-in-law was a suspected Hizbullah fund-raiser) until she was arrested. Last week, in almost identical circumstances, Samar Spinelli, 39, was brought before a Michigan judge for marriage fraud. She joined the Marines after arriving from Lebanon in 1989 and served two tours in Iraq. Coincidence? According to court papers and Justice Department sources, the two women studied together in Lebanon, came to the United States and paid two Detroit brothers, Chris and Jean Paul Deladurantaye, to marry them for citizenship. When agents began investigating Prouty, they contacted her FBI employment references. One was Spinelli.

In other words, two illegal immigrants, exploiting marriage fraud, were backstopping each other’s penetration of — or innocent employment by — U.S. military and government agencies.  Nothing on the public record confirms that Prouty was a Hezbollah mole.  And, of course, it must be said that it is possible that when Prouty peeked into those highly classified and ultra-sensitive files she was merely acting to satisfy her own passing curiosity.  Okay, maybe she admittedly did enter into a fake marriage, did conspire with others to conceal her illegal status, did lie to the INS, did lie to the CIA, and did lie to the FBI.  But being a serial liar who sneak peeks into secret national security investigation files doesn’t necessarily make her a spy for Hezbollah.

On the other hand, there is a series of dots that, if connected, draw at the least a disturbing picture.

Some Dots to Connect

1.  Hezbollah has a world class counterintelligence service. Hezbollah’s apologists like to emphasize the social good works it undoubtedly does in Lebanon for its Shiite constituency.  They either don’t know or choose to ignore the fact that Hezbollah is also one of the best and most feared terrorist organizations in history — in addition to having fashioned a formidable paramilitary force with which to confront not only its sworn enemy, Israel, but anyone else who gets in its way.  Its operatives have bloodied their hands in Iraq helping to kill U.S. military personnel by means of improvised explosive devices, one of Hezbollah’s strong points.  Some observers have opined that Hezbollah has the best light infantry in the world.  Hezbollah’s deep and singular relationships with Syria — which historically sees Lebanon as part of Greater Syria — and Iran, whose militant mullahs created Hezbollah in the early 1980s and of whose terrorist force Hezbollah is an elite appendage, add more layers of potential to its sinister designs.  It is in and through Iran that Hezbollah is killing American soldiers today in Iraq. A blood-stained organization like Hezbollah has lots of enemies.  It is thus in need of good counterintelligence.  The classic functions of counterintelligence are (1) to keep enemy intelligence agents and infiltrators out of one’s business, using both physical and intellectual means, and (2) to penetrate one’s enemies to learn their secret plans, using both infiltration and technological methods. “Hezbollah has a very robust counterintelligence capability,” retired FBI agent Ken Piernik — who was once in charge of the unit monitoring Hezbollah in the United States — told me when I was researching Lightning Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil with my co-author, television producer Barbara Newman. We cited in the book the example of the secret visit of a small team of counterterrorism agents from the FBI’s New York field office to the Tri-Border Region of South America (recounted to us by one of the agents who is now a senior counterterrorism official):

There was no official welcoming party for the FBI agents. Only the minimum advance notice had been given to the host country’s officials. This was to be a quiet surveillance of Hezbollah operatives in the region, done with a level of discretion only one notch above undercover work. Before the agents could complete the short walk across the tarmac to the terminal building, however, the chirping of their pagers joined the drone of the buzzing insects. Someone in New York urgently needed to talk to them.

The news was sobering. A fax had just arrived at the New York field office. It contained only a picture of the agents–as they left their plane minutes before. The implicit message was clear: We know you’re here. We’re watching. It was a classic example of Hezbollah’s superb counterintelligence, another reason why American officials consider the group to be so dangerous.

Lightning Out of Lebanon, Pages 93-94

Hezbollah’s counterintelligence program is backed up by the worldwide service of the Iranian diplomatic and intelligence services.  Their diplomats provide in-country points of contact, expertise, and use of the diplomatic pouch privilege, and constantly seeks to exploit or enlist the aid of the Lebanese diaspora.

2.  “Friends of Theirs” — A Connected Gang of Three

Friends of Theirs Number One: Nasrallah and Ahmedinijad

Friends of Theirs Number One: Hassan Nasrallah and Iran's Holocaust-denier-in-Chief Mahmoud Ahmedinijad

Friends of Theirs Number Two:  Ahmedinijad and Syria's Assad

Friends of Theirs Number Two: M. Ahmedinijad and Syria's Bashar al-Assad

3.  Nasrallah has personally directed a wave of Hezbollah infiltrators into the United States in the past. No later than the early 1990s, Nasrallah and other Hezbollah shot-callers decided to flood the United States with operatives.  Their primary mission would be to raise funds — principally through criminal schemes — and to obtain “dual use technology” — technology that has  both military and civilian uses and is restricted for export. These operatives would use or manipulate members of the Lebanese diaspora.  The cells they created would also be available as infrastructure in place should the day come when Hezbollah and its friends, Iran and Syria, decide to unleash a terrorist attack within the United States.

A Young Mohammed Hammoud and Nasralllah (With Beard)

A Young Mohammed Hammoud and Nasralllah (With Beard)

It appears that Nasrallah was personally involved in the decision and with the operatives selected to go to the United States.  The leader of the Hezbollah cell in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mohammaed Hammoud, about whom we wrote in Lighting Out of Lebanon, personally knew Nasrallah since his early teens at least.  Hammoud placed direct calls to Nasrallah from the United States. Among the items that the FBI seized when it took down the cell (on charges of providing material support to a terrorist organization) were apparently “dual use” photographs.  These were pictures taken at such sites as the White House — useful as mementos and as surveillance tools for attack planning.

Souvenir or Surveillance?  Hezbollah Cell Leader Mohammed Hammoud (Right) and Cousin at the White House

Souvenir or Surveillance? Hezbollah Cell Leader Mohammed Hammoud (Right) and Cousin at the White House

The CSIS Transnational Threats Update summarizes another infiltration that we wrote about at length in Lightning Out of Lebanon:

To date, there have been no confirmed cases of terrorists transiting the U.S.-Mexican border to carry out attacks within the United States. Hezbollah members and supporters are known, however, to have entered the United States via Mexico, including Salim Boughader Mucharrafille and Moahmoud Youssef Kourani.  Mucharrafille was arrested in 2002 for smuggling 200 people, including some suspected Hezbollah supporters, into the United States, while Kourani illegally crossed the border in 2001 and was later charged with and convicted of providing “material support and resources…to Hezbollah.”

Please note the qualifying phrase “to carry out attacks within the United States.”  If and when the Hezbollah-Syria-Iran terrorist consortium decides to attack within the United States, it will have at least some infrastructure and long experience in penetrating our borders through a variety of means.

Nada Prouty's brother-in-law Talal Chahine sitting in a place of prominence to the right of Hezbollah Spiritual Leader Sheikh Modhammed Fadlallah, who issued the fatwa authorizing the Marine Corps barracks bombing of October 1983. At the time of the above photos, Prouty was a FBI Special Agent.  (Caption and photo from Centre

Nada Prouty's brother-in-law Talal Chahine sitting in a place of prominence to the right of Hezbollah Spiritual Leader Sheikh Modhammed Fadlallah, who issued the fatwa authorizing the Marine Corps barracks bombing of October 1983. At the time of the above photos, Prouty was a FBI Special Agent. (Caption and photo from Centre for Counterinelligence and Security Studies)

4. Nada Nadim Prouty also had family connections to Hezbollah. According to the criminal information filed in Prouty’s case, her sister and brother-in-law (a fugitive) not only appeared at a Hezbollah fund-raiser in Lebanon, but her brother-in-law spoke at the event:

In August 2002, Elfat El Aouar and Talal Khalil Chahine … attended a fund raising event in Lebanon. The keynote speakers for the event were Chahine and Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah…Sheikh Fadlallah had previosuly been designated by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist based upon his status as a leading ideological figure with Hizballah.

We wrote in considerable detail about Fadlallah in Lightning Out of Lebanon. Suffice it to say that his fatwahs have meant death for many of Hezbollah’s enemies, including U.S. servicemen killed in the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut.

Are these family connection mere coincidence?

5.  As European Union Dithers About Continuing to Fund Terrorist Para-state, Hezbollah’s Foreign Service Traffics in Drugs. Hezbollah seems poised to realize its long-held dream of dominating Lebanon’s “legitimate” government.  One would hope that the United States would cease sending aid to Lebanon should that happen.  After all, would we help New York City if La Cosa Nostra seized formal control?  But the European Union, on cue, can be expected to dither. Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s “foreign service” continues to generate funding for the para-state, in large degree through global criminal enterprises.  Here is the CSIS report on Hezbollah’s ongoing operations in the Western Hemisphere:

Hezbollah has long been involved in narcotics and human trafficking in South America, particularly along the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The organization’s reach, however, appears to be spreading beyond the tri-border area and into Mexico. Evidence suggests that Hezbollah is developing ties to Mexican narcotics syndicates that control transit routes into the United States. These ties worry U.S. officials in light of the ongoing and increasingly violent war between Mexican authorities and narcotraffickers, which appears to be destabilizing Mexico. Current and former U.S. law enforcement, defense, and counterterrorism officials believe that Hezbollah is using narcotics trafficking routes to smuggle drugs and people into the United States — operations that not only finance the group’s activities but also threaten to increase Hezbollah’s ability to smuggle operatives and weapons into the United States.

Taking this all together, it seems apparent to many that Hezbollah has become a true terrorist para-state.  Not quite a national entity de jure nor recognized as a nation by the civilized world, but de facto operating as a dark state.  It can be expected to continue to position itself in the Western Hemisphere, trafficking drugs, “partnering” with cartels and other traffickers, piggy-backing on Iran’s tightening bonds with Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela and perhaps other leaders antithetical to democratic governance, and infiltrating the United States homeland — establishing clandestine infrastructure and perfecting means and channels of covert entry.

Other than that, dear readers, have a nice day.


In Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, Transnational crime on May 12, 2009 at 7:23 pm
It grew out of the discriminatory policies of the Clanton Street gang, then one of the most powerful gangs in the city.  The Clanton Street gang limited its membership to candidates who could prove that they were of 100 percent Mexican ancestry.  The youngsters who were turned away by Clanton eventually organized their own gang and called it the 18th Street gang.  But organizing was one thing.  Solving the problem was another.  “They were getting their asses kicked by Clanton,” says LAPD gang expert Sgt. Frank Flores.  “So they opened the books to non-Mexicans.”
(University of Michigan Press, June 2009), p. 80.
The Sullen Face of the 18th Street Gang in Maryland -- Joel Y. ("Jhony") Ventura-Quintanilla

The Sullen Face of the 18th Street Gang in Maryland -- Joel Y. ("Jhony") Ventura-Quintanilla

On January 18, 2009, 15-year old Dennys Alfredo Guzman-Saenz left his home in the 8100 block of 14th Avenue in Hyattsville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC.  The teenager walked to a Metrobus stop in front of his house, planning to take a bus to a friend’s house.  He never made it.

The smell of brimstone was in the air.

According to the Montgomery County Department of Police, Guzman-Saenz crossed paths with the devil incarnate in the form of Joel Y. (“Jhony”) Ventura-Quintanilla and four other members of the 18th Street gang — spawned in Los Angeles in the 1980s, but now present throughout the United States.  Following the simplistically brutal traditions of gang culture, the 18th Street gangsters were out celebrating the 18th of the month — 18th of the month and 18th Street, get it? — by looking for a member of the gang’s bitter rival, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) to whack.

Guzman-Saenz was not yet an MS-13 member.  But he was a hanger-on or “associate.”  That was good enough for the 18th Street members’ blood lust. They fell on the youth like jackals on a rabbit, overwhelmed him, and stuffed him into a car.

Members of the two gangs are sworn to attack each other, a rivalry that began back in Los Angeles during the 1980s.

As noted in the quote from my forthcoming book at the top of this posting, the 18th Street gang started out in Los Angeles as an alternative for would-be gangsters who could not meet the dominant Clanton Street gang’s rule limiting membership to those of 100 percent Mexican lineage.

!8th Street Tattoos Feature Number "18" Or Combinations That Add Up to 18

!8th Street Tattoos Feature Number "18" Or Combinations That Add Up to 18

But the new 18th Street gang was weak.  So the leaders “opened the books” to persons of all ethnic backgrounds.  The result was an explosion of membership and the new gang quickly rose to dominance.  Here is how the National Gang Intelligence Center’s National Gang Threat Assessment 2009 describes the 18th Street gang today:

Formed in Los Angeles, 18th Street is a group of loosely associated sets or cliques, each led by an influential member. Membership is estimated at 30,000 to 50,000. In California approximately 80 percent of the gang’s members are illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America. The gang is active in 44 cities in 20 states. Its main source of income is street-level distribution of cocaine and marijuana and, to a lesser extent, heroin and methamphetamine. Gang members also commit assault, auto theft, carjacking, drive-by shootings, extortion, homicide, identification fraud, and robbery.

A Long Way From L.A. -- 18th Street Gangster in Providence, R.I.

A Long Way From L.A. -- 18th Street Gangster in Providence, R.I.

The 18th Street gang was formed at about the same time that a large wave of refugees from El Salvador’s civil war ended up in Los Angeles.  Before the Salvadorans formed their own gang — what would become Mara Salvatrucha, and later MS-13 — some of the refugee youth joined the 18th Street gang under its open book policy.

According to some gang experts, the singular animosity between the 18th Street gang and MS-13 stems from the fact that leaders of the new Salvadoran gang considered those who had joined 18th Street as “sell-outs” and viewed them with murderous contempt.  Murder, counter-murder, and counter-counter murder followed.

Whatever the complex of reasons, there is no doubt that in the United States and in Central America — where the gangs metastasized during the 1990s after gangsters were deported there from the United States — members of the two gangs attack and kill each other in brutal fashion.

Here, according to a local news report (Montgomery News Gazette), is what happened to Dennys Alfredo Guzman-Saenz:

When they [the 18th Street gangsters] saw Guzman-Saenz, who was not in MS-13 but had friends who were, they posed as MS-13 members to determine if he was affiliated with the gang. Guzman-Saenz was abducted after he provided information about MS-13, police said.

Prosecutors said Guzman-Saenz was beaten and stabbed once in the car in Langley Park, according to a brief account given by Assistant State’s Attorney Jeffrey Wennar at bond hearings for four of the suspects Monday. The gang members took the teen to a suspect’s residence in Germantown, then to Malcolm King Park in Gaithersburg [another Maryland suburb] . Guzman-Saenz was taken to a stream in the park and stabbed 72 times, Wennar said.

A jogger found Guzman-Saenz dead in the park at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 19.

The Washington Post adds this detail:

Immediately after the stabbing, one of the suspects went to a grocery store to buy a celebratory beer, police said in charging documents made public yesterday. The suspect then returned to his kitchen a knife used in the killing, and he and his roommate later used it to prepare food, according to the documents.

One could dismiss this incident as so much inter-gang warfare, not of much consequence to the rest of us.

That, however, misses several points.

One is the sheer brutality characteristic of both gangs.  Another is the hazard anyone faces in crossing paths with such gangsters.  Finally, gangsters like the ones involved in this little drama are the foot soldiers of much bigger enterprises connected to the illegal drug trade and to the trade in other contraband, including firearms and human beings.

Project what this will look like five or ten years down the road.

Chandra, Ingmar, and MS-13–Crossing the Devil’s Path

In Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs on May 8, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Hick1: Down in Texas, where I come from, we just go out and get a man and string him up.

Hick2: That’s right!

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Ingmar Guandique Is Accused of Slaying Chandra Levy on a Trail in Washington, DC's Rock Creek Park

Ingmar Guandique, Shown in Booking Photo From Earlier Crimes, Is Accused of Slaying Chandra Levy on a Trail in Washington, DC's Rock Creek Park

The news media couldn’t get enough of former Congressman Gary Condit in 2001.  Shortly after Chandra Levy, an intern in his office, went missing, it was revealed that Condit and Levy had an affair.  Stephen Marshall’s Guerrilla News Network pretty fairly sums up the frenzy here:

For months until the morning the Twin Towers were hit, it was Condit — not bin Laden — who was the most despised man in America. Especially on cable news, where Condit was linked week after week to murder, with no end to speculation about how he’d caused the tragedy. Perhaps Levy died during rough sex with the congressman. Or her death was connected to Condit’s ex-con brother. Or Condit’s buddies in a motorcycle gang. Or because Levy was pregnant with Condit’s baby.

Smart, “sophisticated” people — some of  whom as lawyers should have known better — were standing in line to string up Condit.  Tyburn Gallows was too good for this murderous creep. Queen of Hearts: “Sentence first! Verdict afterward.”

The so-called “main stream media” was equally culpable of rushing to judgment:

A few newspapers also fed the frenzy. The Washington Post published a page 1 exclusive about an alleged affair Condit had years earlier with a teenage girl. The story was based on the girl’s father, a minister, who later admitted he concocted the tale.

Condit Got Ox-Bow Lynch Mob Treatment in 2001

Condit Got Ox-Bow Lynch Mob Treatment in 2001

Eight years later, life and death have moved on, as they curiously enough always do.

And now, according to charges brought in Washington, it turns out that a Salvadoran immigrant named Ingmar Guandique, a member of the notorious transnational Latino gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), may have waylaid Levy and murdered her in a remote section of a trail in Washington’s popular Rock Creek Park.  Guandique was already serving time for other attacks in the park when he was arrested and charged with Levy’s murder.

Putting aside Condit’s lynching — and don’t expect any media apologies — several things struck me about this case after reading a detailed affidavit in support of the arrest warrant.

One is the savagery with which Guandique apparently acted.  This is a hallmark of MS-13.  According to the FBI, most of the crimes committed by MS-13 “are exceedingly violent.”

I write in detail in my book on MS-13 and other transnational Latino gangs (18th Street and Latin Kings in particular) about three particularly brutal murders in Texas and Virginia committed by MS-13 gangsters.  All of them involved remorseless hacking with knives.  I also tell the story of a Christmas Eve massacre on a bus in Honduras led by an MS gangster known as El Culiche, “The Tapeworm.”  [No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement (University of Michigan Press) will be released next month (June 2009).  It is available now for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other internet book stores.]

"Mara Salvatrucha" Tattoo, Clearly Visible in Latest Perp Walk Photo, Was Not Present in Earlier Booking Photo (See Above)

"Mara Salvatrucha" Tattoo, Clearly Visible in Latest Perp Walk Photo, Was Not Present in Earlier Booking Photo (See Above)

Another thing is the puzzle of exactly when Guandique joined MS-13.   The news media mentioned Guandique’s membership in stories about his recent arrest, but none to my knowledge explored it in depth.  When did he join, for example?  Mug shots from Guandique’s earlier arrest clearly do not show any facial or neck tattoos (see above photo).  But in a “perp walk” photo shot at the time of his most recent arrest, he sports a flamboyant MS tattoo on his neck.  The arrest warrant also describes tattoos on Guandique’s body, including among others the “devil’s horns” which is also an MS-13 “gang sign” (a recognition conceit “thrown” with hands and fingers):

Thus, when officers arrested Guandique at Victorville Correctional Institute in Adelanto, California:

Your affiant observed many gang-related tattoos on Guandique’s body, including the words “Mara Salvatrucha” on his neck, a picture of a devil on the top of his head, an image of the character “Chuckie” holding a knife on his back, and a naked female on his chest, as well as the letters “M” and “S.” Additionally, a photograph of Chandra Levy, appearing to have been taken from a magazine, was recovered from Guandique’s cell.

No one who is not a “jumped in” member of MS would dare to wear these tattoos, certainly not in a prison.  That false flag would be a self-executing death warrant.

Object example: A few years ago, a young man in Northern Virginia boasted of his membership in the Salvadoran gang while ordering at a fast food restaurant.  Unfortunately for him, two genuine MS-13  members were present.  They beat him to death when he couldn’t back up his claim.

Gunadique's Was Nicknamed "Chucky," Allegedly Because of His Predilection for Hacking People Up

Guandique Was Nicknamed "Chucky," Allegedly Because of His Predilection for Hacking People Up

So clearly Guandique is MS now.  But was he a member all along, including at the time of the alleged murder?  Or was he recruited in prison?  I don’t know.  One of the witnesses quoted in the affidavit appears to be talking about a long history with MS:

W10 stated that it [sic] has known Guandique for many years. During the course of several conversations between W10 and Guandique, Guandique boasted to W10 that he was a member of MS-13 and that he committed many robberies. Guandique boasted further that he was known as “Chuckie [sic],” because he had a reputation for killing and chopping up people. Guandique also confided to W10 his thoughts about women. Specifically, Guandique told W10 that he committed many crimes against women, including rapes. Guandique stated that he and his gang members grabbed girls that they liked and wanted, as follows: Guandique said that he would hide on a dirt path and wait for the girl to walk by. He would then lasso the girl around the neck and tie her hands and feet together behind her back to prevent her from scratching or kicking him…Guandique admitted that he did not always know whether his victims were still alive at the end of the attack, but that it did not matter, because they would be eaten by animals…

This matter of how long Guandique was a member of MS-13 will no doubt be cleared up at trial (something Rep. Gary Condit never got before his verdict and sentence).

Finally, the affidavit supporting Guandique’s arrest pretty clearly lays out the government’s theory of the case and supporting evidence.  Although the so-called “CSI defense” (lack of forensic evidence such as DNA, etc.) will no doubt be raised by the defense — as it was in the trial of a tragic “collateral damage” murder of a 7-year old in Chicago that I write about in No Boundaries — the government has a strong circumstantial case, including other statements and eye-witness identifications from female victims Guandique attacked in the park, and Guandique’s own jail house statements.

For example, one of the women who was attacked by Guandique in the park broke free using a self-defense technique involving digging her fingernails into his soft palate. She later identified Guandique and had this to say of him:

I do not doubt for a minute that he purposefully stalked me as a hunter tracks his prey. I know in my gut, that given the chance, he would not hesitate to repeat his crime on some other woman and it scares me to think what would happen if she was not prepared with some sort of self defense.

Guandique also wrote letters to another witness (“W9”) in which he admitted to killing a woman in the park:

W9 said that during the course of these communications Guandique wrote that he spent time in a park in D.C. and that he was responsible for the murder of a young woman. W9 became nervous of Guandique given that he had admitted to killing a young woman and later, during a recorded telephone conversation with Guandique, questioned him about the murder. During the recorded conversation Guandique acknowledged that he had told W9 about the “girl who’s dead.”

The affidavit lays out a much stronger case against Guandique than one might gather exists based on reading or watching news accounts.  However, Ingmar Guandique is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence at law.

So was Gary Condit.

That and a dog would have gotten him one friend in Washington in 2001.

MS "Devil's Horns" Gang Sign

MS "Devil's Horns" Gang Sign

Are Drug Legalizers Smoking Dope? A Range of Strong Opinions on What to Do

In Corruption, Crime, Mexico, politics, Transnational crime on May 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm
Should This Be Legal?  And What Else?

Should This Be Legal? And What Else?

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has done what many politicians in Washington only do off-the-record and preferably alone in a sail boat thirty miles off-shore:  suggest a national debate about legalization or decriminalization of some currently illegal drugs (in this case, marijuana).

The subject is percolating, perhaps because of the hurricane of drug violence battering Mexico.  Mark Kleiman wrote a long piece in The American Interest two years ago that is worth reading now.  Here is an excerpt:

…the first step toward achieving less awful results is accepting that there is no one “solution” to the drug problem, for essentially three reasons. First, the potential for drug abuse is built into the human brain. Left to their own devices, and subject to the sway of fashion and the blandishments of advertising, many people will wind up ruining their lives and the lives of those around them by falling under the spell of one drug or another. Second, any laws—prohibitions, regulations or taxes—stringent enough to substantially reduce the number of addicts will be defied and evaded, and those who use drugs in defiance of the laws will generally wind up poorer, sicker and more likely to be criminally active than they would otherwise have been. Third, drug law enforcement must be intrusive if it is to be effective, and enterprises created for the expressed purpose of breaking the law naturally tend toward violence because they cannot rely on courts to settle disputes or police to protect them from robbery or extortion.

More recently, Moises Naim  wrote a short, provocative article titled “Wasted” for Foreign Policy magazine in which he stated:

As a result of this utter failure to think, the United States today is both the world’s largest importer of illicit drugs and the world’s largest exporter of bad drug policy.

I was curious what thoughtful people think about our drug policy and its results.  So I sent the link to a bunch of serious people I know.  I would estimate that about half replied.  (Some no doubt thought that the better part of a career is not putting any views about drugs in writing.) I assured my correspondents that I would not attribute their remarks.  So no names are attached to any of what follows.  But the diversity of their views is impressive, at least to me.  (I made only a few minor edits to correct misspellings and the written equivalents of “you know” and “uh…”):

Health professional

This parallels an article in The Economist a few months back, which made the case that alcohol prohibition entrenched the mafia into US society and that the global drug lords are a modern version of the ‘untouchables’.

The worldwide shortage of Morphine should be included in any analysis of Afghanistan’s heroin industry, though it’s seldom mentioned.

Scholar at a Defense Institute

In general I think that we have to continue with some level of drug trade suppression, but that if we define it as a war it will never be won….The drug war has to be divided conceptually according to the various drugs because they are so distinct in terms of source, shipment variables and toxicity…

Legalization or degrees of permissiveness in use are generally bad ideas in spite of my tendency to believe in the power of the free market.  This is because of the power of the free market.  Although the government could make heroin use legal, for instance, it could not keep people from suing the makers and distributors of such a substance in tort, thus forcing it back to a black market anyway, etc.

In a society wherein cigarettes are being made illegal slice by geographic slice, it is tough to envision a successful movement to make more dangerous substances legal. Additionally, the drug trade fuels other organizations, most of which are bad, so suppression is not just about keeping a kid in Kansas safe, its is about Chavez not having quite as much money with which to screw us.  More or less there it is in a nutshell.

Former Senior Federal Law Enforcement Official

Our government should have been spending far more money for demand reduction for many years, and most anyone you talk to in DEA will agree with that statement.  However, the author alludes to legalization as the answer, and I could not disagree more.  The worst period in our nation’s history for drug abuse and addiction was the 30-40 year period after our Civil War.  One in every 200 Americans were addicted to cocaine or heroin/morphine/opium, and far more were abusing one or more of those drugs.  Those drugs were unregulated and could be purchased off the shelf of any drug store in the country.  ‘Legalization’ didn’t work then and I don’t believe it will now.  The Netherlands’ parliament is now routinely debating the success of their lax drug policies/laws, after they’ve experienced continually rising crime rates and declining quality of life in their city parks, etc.  The bottom line—you can’t control the actions of people under the influence of powerful stimulant and depressant drugs; people simply don’t act responsibly while under their influence.  That’s why there are countless examples of cocaine, meth, GHB, PCP, etc. addicts shooting their next door neighbor or siblings, because they thought they were going to kill them.

Legalizers will often say that alcohol prohibition didn’t work, so drug prohibition will never work.  The numbers of Americans treated for alcoholism and liver disease decreased significantly during the prohibition years, as did the numbers of alcohol related highway deaths.  The vast majority of Americans who use alcohol, do not abuse alcohol.  When I mow the lawn on a hot summer day, I thoroughly enjoy a cold beer or two when I’m done, but I do not drink those beers to alter my behavior.  When my wife cooks my favorite Italian pasta dish, I enjoy complementing the meal with a glass or two of red wine.  I do not drink the wine to alter my behavior in any way.  However, those who use the drugs I mentioned earlier, or any other illicit mind altering drugs, including marijuana, are doing it for one reason and one reason only—to seek a sense of euphoria and ultimately an alteration of their behavior.

No responsible nation has ever decriminalized drugs that did not eventually re-criminalize them, because they experienced skyrocketing addiction and abuse rates, workplace accidents, highway deaths, insurance rates, etc.; at the same time experiencing significant decreases in school equivalency/efficiency test scores, workplace output, etc.  And what drugs would we legalize, and who/what would regulate their manufacture (to pharmaceutical standards), marketing, distribution, taxation, etc.?  The federal government (you’ve got to be kidding me)?  Will we legalize PCP, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, GHB (the date-rape drug), ecstasy?  How about 3-methyl fentanyl, a synthetic form of heroin 1,000 times more potent then heroin?  Do we allow the user of cocaine hydrochloride to ‘crack’ it up on the kitchen stove with basic household products?  By the way, what’s the age limit we attach to drug use?  Is it 21?  Is it 18?  And do we really want the traffickers, after we legalize drugs, to suddenly prioritize their focus on our fellow citizens under the designated legal age—our kids?

The reality of the situation is that we do a pretty damn good job of keeping a lid on our drug problem here in the U.S.  We did not experience over 6,000 drug related deaths on our streets last year; we did not have over 200 drug related beheadings in the U.S. last year; we did not have our Deputy Attorney General arrested for taking multi-hundred thousand dollar payoffs from drug lords; we did not have to throw our military into the fight domestically because our federal, state and local law enforcement community had become so corrupted by drug cartels that they could not be trusted; etc.  This should at least be considered as one of the ways we measure success against drug abuse and trafficking in our country.  There are somewhere between 40% to 50% fewer Americans abusing illicit drugs today than in 1979 at the height of the most recent era of drug abuse in our country.  If some medical research team had reduced the number of cases of diabetes by 40% to 50% since 1979, someone would be getting a Nobel prize.

Finally, we’re not winning the War on Domestic Violence.  Should we legalize it?  We’re not winning the War on Racism?  Should we legalize it?  We’re not winning the War on Corporate Fraud.  Should we legalize it?  We’re not winning the War on Child Pornography.  Should we legalize it?    The only thing we accomplish by legalizing drugs, is that we provide our kids and other citizens with greater access to cheaper, more potent and powerful mind-altering, addictive substances.  Don’t we have enough problems to deal with?

Lawyer in criminal division of a federal law enforcement agency

Very interesting – it does seem clear that the war is a failure, and we are losing.  The new ONDCP Director (Kerlikowski) will focus on demand reduction as well, but it certainly seems reasonable to explore ways to take the vast criminal profit out of the drug trade.  Unfortunately, no one can say that politically – though, who knows, maybe Arlen Spector will lead the charge as a Democrat?

Personal friend, retired from government, lives in Colorado

I totally agree with this article. In fact, I believe that failed US policies are largely responsible for the Mexican drug wars and their spillover here. If we 1) legalized marijuana and 2) had the same gun policies as Mexico itself, where it is very hard to buy guns, then much of the drug-fueled violence would cease. But what are the chances that either of those things could happen? Even Obama seems afraid of the NRA!

Retired gang investigator, California

…seems logical, but a few things I observe:  Yes, we are losing the war on drugs, just like Viet Nam, and in some respect Iraq.  We have no real political spine for wars.  Our congress has no general consensus on either.  The ideological lock that is occurring in Congress prevents anything meaningful from passing.  I agree we need prevention and treatment, but we also need border control and to toughen the import routes.  Narcotic crimes are not victimless, we have a lot of violence associated with it, and legalizing it is not an acceptable answer.  We have many murders not related to narcotics, in fact, more than those that are.  Should we legalize the murder of wives by irate husbands, or soiled daughters like the Taliban advocates?  The obvious answer if NO, absolutely not.  Let us seal the borders against the importation of human traffickers and narcotics.  It could be done with minimal legislative change, and with the support of Congress.  That is unlikely, so we will probably be having this same argument 10 years from now.

Congressional staff member

I’ve long believed that the “war on drugs’ (another asinine “contribution” to our national lexicon from the guy who gave us the suffix “gate”) has been more than a colossal failure; it has inflicted great harm on the nation, and on other nations (see e.g. Mexico at the moment).  Would the drug gangs in the US and Mexico (and Colombia, Afghanistan, etc.) have that much money and influence if RJ Reynolds sold grass in the corner bodega for $5 a pack?  Hardly.  What would happen to the shooting war?  When was the last time someone got wasted over a shipment of bathtub gin?  When was the last time someone went blind drinking bathtub gin?  Do our kids even know what bathtub gin is?  Prohibition made local gangs into the modern mob, and we’ve done the same with the war on drugs.  Public opprobrium, and the war on drugs lobby, which includes everything from prison industrial complex to the guys who make those idiotic “DARE” t-shirts, are substantial impediments to a more rational policy.  It is also the case that many illegal drugs are extremely harmful.  The only question for policy makers is whether the current legal regime is the best, or at least the least bad, way to deal with those harms.  Decades of experience tell us no.  We can’t even get a consensus for treatment on demand, or guaranteed treatment for people ready to get clean.  I had the experience in [New York]  of trying to get junkies who showed up in my office looking for treatment.  Even calling from an Assembly office I couldn’t get them in.  Our way of treating these people is with prison.  We also make the richest guy in the neighborhood the pusher.  That may be self-satisfying for some people, but it’s not really a solution. We get the problems associated with drug use, plus a failure to help addicts, and we create significant deleterious associated problems.  Not terribly helpful.

Prominent criminal defense lawyer

…we pay a tremendous price for the legalization of alcohol—drunk drivers, alcoholism, etc. I am not advocating abstinence, but in reality we suffer greatly for legalization.  We will pay a much higher price if drugs are legalized.

I agree the war on drugs has not been won, but continuing to fight the war is better than giving up.  The “war” has saved lives, other social ills in our society and will continue to so even if we never achieve anything close to total victory.  If we legalize say even marijuana it will become a slippery slope to much more.  I am more concerned about what I believe will be a drug pandemic in our country— is far more important than angst caused in Afghanistan, etc.

Moreover, if we give up—what does it say about our resolve in other areas when the going gets tough?  Another black hawk down maybe of which Ben Laden took note.

If when we can not fully control something, we surrender, what a sorry state that will be.

Retired senior federal law enforcement official

1. Just like with wine allow every family to have two pot plants for personal use
2. Provide drug addicts amnesty with free drugs
3.Increase penalty for all drug traffickers to death – send special ops teams to other countries to bring ‘em back dead or alive if needed.

I wonder what you think?


In Corruption, Crime on May 6, 2009 at 11:49 am

Luis Molina (William Hurt): The nicest thing about feeling happy is that you think you’ll never be unhappy again.

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

The worst thing about petty corruption is that you think you’ll never get caught.

So you move up to grand corruption.

And maybe murder.

As Fairly Civil explored in Part One and Two of this series, the illicit drug trade and the prison gangs that control it behind bars drive much of the corruption in prisons.  But drugs are not always the prime mover.  Correctional officers simply yield sometimes to the temptation to exploit the relatively weak and vulnerable position of their inmate charges for sex and money.

A shocking 2006 shootout at the entrance to a federal woman’s prison in Florida pulled back the curtain on a long-running scheme in which six federal corrections officers were exploiting female offenders.  The male guards were trading privileges and contraband for sex and cash, using threats to cover up their corrupt acts.

Federal Agents At Scene After 2006 Shootout at FCI near Tallahassee, Florida

Federal Agents At Scene After 2006 Shootout at FCI near Tallahassee, Florida

After a federal grand jury handed up a secret indictment of the guards, FBI and U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) agents set out to make arrests.  The agents arrived at the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) near Tallahassee, Florida early on the morning of June 21, 2006.  It appears that the arrest team did not expect resistance because the indictment was supposedly secret — although the fact of the investigation seems to have been known — and guards were not allowed to bring guns into the prison.

U.S. Department of Justice OIG Special Agent William "Buddy" Sentner Was Shot to Death By Indicted Prison Guard

U.S. Department of Justice OIG Special Agent William "Buddy" Sentner Was Shot to Death By Indicted Prison Guard

Guards were not searched, however.  One of the indicted federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) officers, Ralph Hill, had smuggled in a personal gun.  Hill must have known something was up, as he had retained counsel.  In any event, he opened fire on the arresting agents.  Hill shot OIG Special Agent William “Buddy” Sentner to death, and was himself killed in the melee.  Another correctional officer assisting in the arrests was wounded.  The DOJ shooting report on the incident has not been publicly released, at least to my knowledge.

Three of the accused officers pleaded guilty and two other were convicted of various charges after trial.

Alfred Barnes was among those who pleaded guilty.  The “Factual Basis For Plea” filed in his case (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Docket # 4:06cr36-RH) lays out the whole scheme in dry, prosecutorial, but nonetheless sordid detail.  Because it is Barnes’ admission, it probably is about as reliable a first-hand description as one can get from this record:

During the period alleged in the indictment, there existed among defendants a tacit agreement to use and help one another to use their positions as correctional officers for personal gratification and financial gain, contrary to the law and the public’s best interest. This agreement included the understanding that certain defendants would have sexual contact with inmates, would introduce contraband into the prison to sell and use as bribes, and would have inmates and others send money via the U.S. Postal Service and other means of payment for contraband.

Barnes’ statement lays out several specific examples of how the scheme operated.  Here is one from among them:

Defendant Barnes…accepted bribes in the form of payments and sexual favors from Inmate #1 in exchange for providing her with contraband. Inmate #1 would have associates outside of FCI Tallahassee mail money or contraband to him using a name different than his own to…[an] address in Thomasville, Georgia, that defendant Barnes provided. Defendant Barnes received money and sexual favors as compensation for bringing the contraband into FCI Tallahassee. The contraband…that defendant Barnes brought into FCI Tallahassee pursuant to this scheme consisted of alcohol, cosmetics, clothing, jewelry, and cigars.

The admission also describes how Barnes and the others sought to cover up their criminal conduct:

It was understood that to facilitate and conceal these unlawful activities, certain defendants would take steps to discourage inmates from reporting defendants’ illegal conduct.  These steps included threatening to plant contraband among the inmates’ belongings, threatening to have inmates shipped to institutions far from their friends and family, monitoring inmates [sic] telephone calls, directing inmates not to cooperate with Department of Justice investigators, and displaying the BOP computer tracking system to inmates to show how defendants could monitor the whereabouts of the inmates even if they were transferred to another institution.  Contrary to their duty as correctional officers, it was also understood that defendants would keep silent and not report the conduct and violations described above.

This sleazy scheme brings the “women in prison” movie genre to life.  But in real — as opposed to “reel” — life, the corruption undermines the whole system.  One former female inmate told the Tallahassee Democrat (June 21, 2007) after the case was concluded that officials “brushed everything under the carpet.”

“It just dies down for a while,” she said.  “All the officers watch their steps, and they watch what they do.  But then when they think it’s cool, they slack, and they start doing it again.”

“We have zero tolerance for any abuse towards an inmate,” said a BOP spokesman.



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