Borderland Beat
Saturday, August 31, 2013
by Siskiyou Kid

Wikileak Memo: Obama Refused DEA Permission to Assassinate Chapo

Stratfor Memos Leaked By WikiLeaks Show US DEA Was Refused White House Permission To Kill Drug Kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera

By David Iaconangelo,

If one high-ranking employee with the global intelligence firm Stratfor is to be believed, not only did the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) once know the whereabouts of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán - the Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin and fugitive from justice in Mexico - but the agency even asked the White House to go into Mexico to kill him.

Among the 5 million "Stratfor memos" published by WikiLeaks in 2012 are several messages from Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence and top expert on Mexican drug cartels for Stratfor, describing classified interactions from 2007 to 2011 between Mexican and US intelligence and even President Barack Obama's response to the 2010 DEA query. Guzmán, one of the most powerful of Mexico's cartel capos, was sentenced to over 20 years in prison in 1993 on drug trafficking charges but escaped by bribing a prison guard. He remains a fugitive from justice.

The first of the messages from Burton came on November 2, 2007. "If the DEA can specifically locate the Sinaloa boss El Chapo, he will be assassinated," Burton wrote. "A decision memo has been authorized to take him out, as a national security threat." WhoWhatWhy, an investigative journalism website, writes that the "decision memo" could refer to a decision within the DEA pending approval from the National Security Council, or a memo indicating the Bush administration - still in office at that time - could have approved the plan.

Whatever the case was, a DEA operation was never carried out. But Burton later says, in a February 2010 email, that the DEA "had a window of opportunity to render El Chapo" but the White House "would not let them do it", quipping, "God forbid we upset our lovely MX neighbors". In a July 2010 email, he expounds a bit on what happened, writing, "DEA Special Ops submitted a finding to go into MX to whack El Chapo. Obviously, the decision came back as no. Never made it past the deputies committee."

The intelligence VP ends the email striking a pose of nonchalance toward the Obama administration's apparent rejection of the DEA request in that message. "As Gomer Pyle would say, 'Surprise, surprise'" he writes. That attitude might be explained by the last of the memos on El Chapo, coming in April 2011, when Burton says, "Obama won't approve a finding for covert action inside MX based on 'moral ground'", adding that then-Mexican President Felipe Calderón "has told a few that violence has reached a point that he would turn a blind eye to unilateral CIA or DEA actions, if they wanted to go down that path, as long as he has 'plausible deniability.'"

Close cooperation between US and Mexican intelligence agencies has been a politically sensitive one in Mexico. Under the Calderón administration, the agencies were known to have collaborated to an unprecedented degree - though perhaps not to the extent that the Stratfor memos suggest. But the administration of current president Enrique Peña Nieto, who came into office in December 2012, has tried to wedge out old space. And the opposition on the Mexican left denounces such collaboration as an incursion on Mexican sovereignty, a claim which Obama dismissed in a May trip to Mexico as "a distortion".

Burton also details ways in which the DEA might have gone about killing the Mexican drug lord. "One of the scenarios discussed to kill El Chapo or other Zeta HVT's [high-value targets] was a 1000 yard head shot by a U.S. shooter, to plant the seed of paranoia in the minds of the narcos as to who pulled the trigger.

"CIA 'Ground Branch' assets and/or DEA SO [Special Operations] have stated they have the ability and intelligence to pull it off without getting caught."