Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Correction, Please!" Redux


In a brief essay that did little more than repackage a press release from the Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff's Department, The New American reported on July 8 that Sheriff Paul Babeu has bravely declined a personal security detail despite threats on his life "from the Mexican Drug Cartel and Drug Cartel members." Those alleged threats, which are deemed "credible," were provoked by Sheriff Babeu's bold efforts "to secure the United States border," readers were told.

Correction, Please!

Perhaps this should be described in terms of a correction made necessary by subsequent developments that impeach the credibility of Paul Babeu and his department, at least where gathering and assessing "intelligence" is concerned. 

After former* JBS member, unabashed neo-Nazi, and accused federal provocateur J.T. Ready assembled a militia-like group to patrol Pinal County in search of illegal immigrants, Sheriff Babeu told the press that he neither encouraged nor invited Ready and his chums to act as a law enforcement auxiliary. He mentioned the possibility that Ready's little knot of knuckleheads "may have gotten the attention of the Los Zetas drug cartel in Mexico," reported Arizona's KPHO-TV, a CBS affiliate. 

Babeu referred to an article supposedly written by "Michael Webster, [a]columnist with the LA Times," describing a sit-down meeting with a member of Los Zetas. "During the interview," reports KPHO, "the cartel member specially mentioned Babeu."

"`We're going to hold Sheriff Paul Babeu personally responsible,' Babeu said quoting the article," recounted KPHO. "I've never seen threats made publicly, using our media to make threats south of the border to us," the sheriff concluded, emphasizing that "the threat will not intimidate his department."

One problem here is that Michael Webster doesn't write for the Los Angeles Times, and never has. No article of the sort referred to above was ever published by that paper. Mr. Webster, who describes himself as a "syndicated investigative journalist" -- and who may, indeed, so some worthwhile reporting -- publishes most of his work through an on-line news aggregator called U.S. Border Fire Report.

Webster's essay refers to a conversation he claims to have had with "One of my informants that I have called Juan" in which the 35-year-old man, "who claimed to be an officer in the Los Zetas drug cartel organization," criticized Babeu for not properly investigating the killings of drug couriers, which were supposedly committed by vigilantes.

"The Los Zetas officer said `I believe there is a cover-up by sheriff Paul Babeu by protecting the Americans who did the killings. If the true facts of this case are not revealed publicly and the guilty ones are not brought to justice I will hold the sheriff personally responsible."

Taking this account at face value, it's difficult to discern an actual death threat, as Sheriff Babeu clearly intends. But there is nothing about this story to elevate it above the status of printed rumor: While we may be justified in accepting Webster's claim to have met and spoken with "Juan," we're given no reason to believe that this man was what he reportedly claimed to be. 

The Zetas presumably know enough about operational security, and have sufficient organizational discipline, to deny their cadres the luxury of mouthing off in detail to bloggers regarding their malign designs against U.S. law enforcement officials.  

Babeu or his office misrepresented Webster as a columnist with the Los Angeles Times, and repackaged his intriguing but dubious account as legitimate intelligence regarding a plausible threat against the sheriff.

Obviously, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office has pretty emancipated standards of "credibility" when it comes to assessing supposed threats to Sheriff Babeu's life.TNA would be wise to run a clarification or retraction of its earlier PR story about Babeu, but it won't.

Santayana famously said that "skepticism is the chastity of the intellect." When it comes to assessing sensational claims made by opportunistic Republicans seeking to exploit nativist impulses, The New American's editorial "leadership" is a pushover. This is the sort of thing we'd expect from people content to repackage "news" from undisguised tabloids like the Globe -- assuming that the "news" item resonates with the narrative being written by the GOP-aligned media apparat regarding the evil deeds of the foreign-born usurper Barack Obama. (Mr. Obama, I hasten to point out, is at least as despicable as his Republican predecessor, whose policies he has continued with almost perfect fidelity.)

Back in the 1960s, when the Feds through COINTELPRO and other initiatives were creating the conditions for violent racial conflict, the JBS used what influence it could to put out or contain the fire.Today, the weak-willed opportunists running things in Appleton are helping to spread accelerant. 

As recently as  1996, when TNA was still in the business of investigative journalism and the management of the JBS was burdened with principles of some kind, the organization actually exposed cynical efforts to pit Americans against each other through engineered racial conflict (see, if you can find it, the July 22, 1996 cover story "Behind the Burnings: There is More than Racism at Work"). Of course, that was about a decade before the organization fell into the hands of people content to ride waves because they were too timid to make them.

*Ready claims that he wasn't expelled by the JBS, which has a black-letter policy forbidding members to be active in white supremacist organizations. By his account, Ready simply allowed his membership to expire. 

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