- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

The Homeland Security inspector general yesterday said his staffers did not lie when they told Republican congressmen falsely that U.S. Border Patrol agents who shot a drug-smuggling suspect “were out to shoot Mexicans.”

Richard L. Skinner said his investigators later learned that the accusation was “inaccurate” and blamed a public uproar over the discrepancy on Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, a member of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on investigations who sought a briefing on the case.

He said terms of the briefing for Mr. McCaul and others were violated when the accusation was released to the press, noting that it was never included in a final report on the case by his office.

“Mr. McCaul and the other members understood the information my office was providing was not public and was not to be made public,” he said. “My staff made some misstatements during the briefing, but nothing that affected the investigation, the trial, the convictions or the sentencings” of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean.

“The only reason the statement that Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean allegedly said they wanted to shoot a Mexican has become public is because … others have publicized that inaccurate information and reported it to the media,” he said.

In a two-page statement, Mr. Skinner said the agents acknowledged that they intended deadly force when they fired shots at the drug-smuggling suspect, thinking he was armed, but there is no explanation how his staffers took that to mean they “wanted to shoot Mexicans.”

Mr. McCaul said that Mr. Skinner sent his staff to brief him and three other members of Congress on the Border Patrol case and that during the Sept. 26 meeting, they were told that Ramos and Compean had said “they were out to shoot Mexicans.” He said Mr. Skinner’s staff made the statement several times during the briefing.

“Why wouldn’t we believe them?” he said. “Didn’t they have the facts of their investigation by that point? It was just two weeks later that these Border Patrol agents were sentenced.

“Mr. Skinner admitted that his staff made mistakes during at least two different congressional hearings,” Mr. McCaul said. “He should fix the mistakes, make sure they don’t happen again and move on.”

In February, Mr. Skinner retracted the accusation during a follow-up subcommittee hearing.

At that session, Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said Mr. Skinner “admitted under oath” giving false information to Congress “painting Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean as rogue cops who were not in fear for their lives and who were ‘out to shoot Mexicans.’ ”

Mr. Culberson called for Mr. Skinner’s resignation because “he lied to us.”

Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, were convicted on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in a crime of violence and a civil rights violation in their attempted arrest of Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national.

Their 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively, have drawn widespread criticism, including from some members of Congress — 90 of whom are co-sponsors of a bill by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, calling for a congressional pardon.

Although Mr. Skinner said that while the claimed statement by the agents was inaccurate, it “was not reported by my office to anyone other than … McCaul and the other members and their staff in attendance at the closed briefing.”

At the briefing, he said, his staff “did not have the benefit of a trial transcript or even a written report of investigation” when they erroneously said the agents wanted to shoot Mexicans.

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