We (and everyone else) got a news release earlier today from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, whose boss, Paul Babeu (in the photo), is the man of the moment in the increasingly ugly debate over what to do with illegal immigrants.
The dramatic release claimed that, back in May, the federal Department of Homeland Security (headed by former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano) informed several local law enforcement agencies in an e-mail that "assassins" from the Mexican drug cartels were "being sent to take out bandits in Vekol Valley."
Vekol Valley, readers may recall, is in a remote part of western Pinal County, and it is where Deputy Louie Puroll claimed to have been shot by drug smugglers last April 30. (We have written extensively about that shooting (see here and here), and currently are working on a follow-up story.)
The Homeland Security e-mail claimed that a "credible confidential source" had spoken of an alleged weekend meeting of competing cartel members in Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco), also in May.
During the clandestine meeting, the source said, it allegedly had been decided "that the cartel would send a group of fifteen, very well-equipped and armed sicarios [killers] complete with bulletproof vests, into the Vekol Valley...[The cartel] will then send groups of simulated backpackers carrying empty boxes covered with burlap into the Vekol Valley to draw out the bandits.
"Once the bandits have been identified, the sicarios will take out the bandits."
Sheriff Babeu confirmed the existence of the Homeland Security e-mail in this morning's press release after Channel 5 in Phoenix broke the story, saying "this information [the meeting of the Mexican bad guys] came from Janet Napolitano's office. She knows exactly what the citizens of Arizona are faced with, yet she continues to publicly state how much safer we all are."
But wait a tic, as super-spy Austin Powers used to say.
Matthew Chandler, a Washington D.C.-based spokesman for Homeland Security, responded to the blustery sheriff a few hours ago with his own e-mail.
"This particular information proved to be inaccurate," Chandler wrote.
"At this time, DHS does not have any specific, credible information on intra-cartel violence taking place in Arizona. Over the past 20 months, this administration has dedicated unprecedented manpower, technology and infrastructure to the Southwest border.
"In addition to remaining in close contact with law enforcement on the ground, over the past several months we have added personnel and assets to Arizona to assist other federal, state and local partners to keep our communities safe."
In other words, WTF are you local yokels yapping about?
Not to be outdone, Sheriff Babeu's public information officer, Tim Gaffney, immediately fired back at Chandler, "Can you please explain to me how the Department of Homeland Security can say that the information was 'proved to be inaccurate?'
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"The intelligence information disseminated by your office was correct regarding the Deputy Puroll shooting, and four weeks later we had two illegal immigrants murdered in this same area described in the e-mail where they said it would take place. One of the illegal immigrants was armed with an assault rifle. Now during the past several weeks `spotters' have been located [in] several different caves which is also referenced in the e-mail. How with three confirming facts can you say that it was `proved to be inaccurate?'"
Anyway, that's where things sit right now -- in the land of jibber and jabber.
Oh, and yes... We still are scratching our heads about what happened to those smugglers and all their dope in the Louie Puroll case.