- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2007

In a meeting in September, officials from the Department of Homeland Security office of the Inspector General briefed Reps. John Culberson, Ted Poe, Kenny Marchant and Michael McCaul on a strange story about a two border patrol agents facing criminal charges for shooting a Mexican national, who was offered immunity in exchange for his testimony, even though he was in the United States illegally and driving a truck loaded with 743 pounds of marijuana near Fabens, Texas. The DHS officials explained the case in such a way as to effectively forestall serious inquiry into the case by the four Texas Republicans. During the course of the investigation, the officials claimed, the agents had stated that at no point during the incident were they in fear for their lives and that they were out “to shoot a Mexican.”

But neither charge against Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean is supported by the DHS inspector general’s report, released this week after four months and numerous congressional requests. The report contradicts the first claim: In his sworn statement, included in the report, Compean says he and the Mexican national, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, “was pointing something shiny with his left hand. It looked like a gun. This is when I started shooting.” The second claim, that the agents wanted “to shoot a Mexican,” is never made in the report and appears to be blatantly untrue. Said Mr. Culberson: “[DHS Inspector General] Richard Skinner admitted yesterday under oath that his top deputies gave Members of Congress false information painting Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean as rogue cops.”

Ramos and Compean were convicted on charges that included assault with a deadly weapon, discharging a firearm in a crime of violence and tampering with evidence, and they were sentenced to 11 and 12 years in prison, respectively. The former agents have been incarcerated since the middle of January, and this week Ramos was assaulted — suggesting that whatever steps were needed to protect the former agent were not taken.

That the report does not substantiate the claims made by the DHS officials in September is in no way exculpatory, however. In congressional testimony this week, Mr. Skinner said the misrepresentation was “innocent” and “unintentional,” according to reports, and a result of a mischaracterization his office received over the phone. While it may have been unintentional — were it deliberate, the offense would be absolutely egregious — tarring the agents with overstated and false claims in such an emotionally charged and complicated situation is a serious impediment to a clear understanding of the case. DHS officials should have taken more care not to mislead.



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