Wednesday, December 3, 2008

George W. Bush & His Political Persecution of the Border Patrol Agents – He Can Lessen His Disgrace with a Pardon Now

George W. Bush can make a small but morally-significant step in softening what will be the cold, harsh stare of history on his presidency by pardoning the two Border Patrol agents persecuted by his administration in what can be seen as a political gesture to the Mexican government, which does not want enforcement of our immigration laws. The case is difficult to understand otherwise.

United States Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Alonso Compean are serving 11 and 12 year sentences, respectively, for shooting a drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks in February, 2005. They were convicted, as I read, of assault with a dangerous weapon, discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, obstruction of justice (for allegedly lying about the incident in an attempt to cover it up), and a violation of the 14th Amendment right to be free from illegal seizure.

According to the Washington Times (January 18, 2007), “[the suspect] was shot after he illegally entered the United States … and refused efforts by the agents to stop his vehicle. Court records show he jumped from his van and ran south to the Rio Grande, where he was confronted by Compean, who was knocked to the ground. Although wounded, [the suspect] managed to cross the border and escape in a waiting van. The government’s prosecution began after an investigator from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General located [the suspect] in Mexico. The investigator had been dispatched after the suspect’s mother complained to a Border Patrol agent in Arizona that her son had been shot…. [The suspect] was given immunity by U.S. prosecutors against any drug charges in exchange for his testimony against the agents.”

To sum, a suspicious man looking like he was a smuggler in a van receives a minor wound in a scuffle with Border Patrol agents who had intercepted him trying to illegally enter the United States. The Border Patrol agents said they thought he was armed; the drug smuggler says he was not. He escapes. No gun was found. Over 700 pound of marijuana are found in the van. The Bush Justice Department brings charges against the Border Patrol Agents and excuses the Mexican drug smuggler; it is not known if the Department apologized to the smuggler, although reports have it that his minor medical expenses were picked up.

The long sentences are apparently due in part to a federal law which tacks 10 years on to federal sentences for crimes committed with guns. As I have read the various news reports, it is apparently against the rules for Border Patrol agents to use their guns against drug smugglers (except, I would hope, when they are under attack, but one cannot be too sure about such things today). As an aside, duly note that this drug smuggling illegal alien who disobeyed U.S. agents while committing a crime has civil rights; he is now suing the United States for $5 million in damages.

The drug smuggler’s mother, an excellent judge of the political gestalt in general and of George W. Bush in particular, then had the temerity to complain about the incident to the United States government, which proceeded to spend time and money tracking him down in Mexico and granting him immunity for his testimony against the agents. The Bush Administration, including the now-controversial prosecutor who brought the charges, one Johnny Sutton, U.S. Attorney for West Texas (an old Bush minion from his days as governor, and put in the prosecutor position by Bush himself), chose to believe the drug smuggler, as did the jury, against the word of the two agents. Defenders of this travesty, who also believe O.J. was innocent because the jury said so, say this jury spoke and would not have convicted if the charges weren’t true.

It is outrageous that George W. Bush and his administration brought these charges, and convinced 12 people to convict. But, as reported by the Washington Times, Bush then added insult to grave injury. He refused a request by Republican U.S. House members to keep the two men out of prison pending their appeal. They began prison sentences on January 17, 2007. And finally, not yet finished making a public example of these two men, Bush’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, as noted by columnist Debra Saunders, “failed to protect [the two agents] when they entered prisons filled with the sort of criminals they used to put away. One night gang members beat up Ramos.” She quotes U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R, Calif.): “The attorney general knew that these two men’s lives were at risk. Instead of send[ing] them to a minimum security prison or let[ting] them get out on bond (while they appeal), he has dug his heels in.” In July, 2008, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld virtually all of the convictions in this case.

Contrast Bush’s aggressive activity in this case with others – say, for example, those cases of anti-Bush federal employees who in recent years have deliberately and repeatedly violated the law in leaking important state intelligence secrets to newspapers in order to compromise our anti-terror national security. These leaks have put every American at greater risk. Has Bush prosecuted even one of them, or even made an effort to publicly expose them? No, for to do so would incur more wrath from Democrats, who hate him already. Prosecuting two law enforcement officers who were intercepting a drug smuggler was cowardly; perhaps Bush sought the encomiums of the Mexican government and a respite from Democrats.

I am very much reminded here of the defining line from the movie Night of the Generals, the story of an officer with a conscience in the WWII German military police who is doggedly pursuing the murderer of a single person, a murderer known to be a German general. The officer is asked why this politically-risky case is so important, since thousands are being killed every day in the war. I write this from long memory: the officer replies saying that what can seem acceptable on the large scale is often barbaric on the small.

George W. Bush has sacrificed two loyal public servants, their families, their children, seemingly for a political purpose. George W. Bush can pardon them now and achieve a shred of redemption on his travesty.

Wikipedia (yes, not always an accurate and balanced source, but a good place to start and find references) has a number of inter-linked articles related to this case; start (here) with Johnny Sutton, who has made a name for himself in prosecuting border law enforcement officials. Also, see comments and postings by Michele Malkin (here) and Bob Weir at American Thinker (here).

John Michael Greco

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