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National-security trump card played in House of Death cover-up

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NarcoNews.com
By Bill Conroy
Posted on Sat Oct 28th, 2006

U.S. government lawyers have reached for the ultimate weapon in the House of Death mass murder cover-up: National Security.

Once that label is successfully applied to any aspect of the case, it is a sure bet the full truth of the U.S. government’s complicity in the murders will forever be suppressed.

And just what is being hidden under the trench coat of national security?

Between August 2003 and mid-January of 2004, a dozen people were kidnapped, tortured, butchered and then buried in the backyard of the House of Death — located at Calle Parsioneros 3633 in Juárez. The killers were Mexican police in league with a narco-trafficker named Heriberto Santillan Tabares, who was a top lieutenant in the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization.

The murders were carried out with the help of a U.S. government informant — a former Mexican cop who had attained high standing in Santillan’s organization. The informant, Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, was under the watch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and an Assistant U.S. Attorney in El Paso, Texas.

When the informant’s role came to light, after his activities nearly cost the lives of a DEA agent and his family, rather than investigate the callous activities of U.S. law enforcers who allowed the informant to commit murder under government cover, the leadership of the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, chose to bury the facts along with the bodies.

A cover-up was hatched, that continues to this day, and the high-ranking DEA agent, Sandalio Gonzalez, who blew the whistle on the whole sordid affair, became yet another victim of the House of Death — his career ruined in the aftermath of a calculated effort to silence the messenger.

After the walls of the House of Death came crashing down in the wake of the near-death of the DEA agent and his family, a Joint Assessment Team (JAT) composed of ICE and DEA investigators undertook a review of the House of Death mass-murder case.

That JAT review involved some 40 interviews with DEA and ICE personnel and others.

To date, the report prepared in the wake of those interviews has not been released publicly.

Gonzalez is now seeking to have the JAT report produced as part of a discrimination lawsuit he has pending against the Department of Justice in federal court in Miami.

Gonzalez’ lawsuit stems, in part, from retaliation he claims he suffered after blowing the whistle on corruption within DEA’s Miami operations — which he uncovered while posted there as a high-ranking supervisor.

In addition to suffering retaliation and discrimination designed to “harass and humiliate (him) and slander his character and damage his reputation,” Gonzalez asserts in his lawsuit that in January 2001 he was transferred involuntarily from Miami to the less prestigious post of special agent in charge of DEA’s El Paso field division.

The government, of course, claims Gonzalez’ claims have no merit.

Some three years later in El Paso, Gonzalez again found himself blowing the whistle on corruption, this time on the alleged cover-up of government agents’ complicity in multiple murders at the House of Death in Juárez.

But in the government’s response to Gonzalez’ recent motion to produce the JAT report on the House of Death, a bombshell is dropped, in the form of a footnote in the legal pleadings.

That footnote reads as follows:


In addition, independent of this litigation, the [JAT] report is being reviewed by DEA to determine whether portions have to be classified as National Security Information.

This is the first public mention to date by the U.S. government of any potential “national security” implications to the House of Death mass murder case.

However, if the government is successful in invoking classified status for key public documents associated with this bloody drug-war catastrophe (documents such as the JAT report), then critical evidence that might expose the complicity of U.S. officials in the House of Death murders will be buried.

So just what’s in the JAT report that the government doesn’t want us to see — to the extent that it is even willing to invoke the stealth trump card of national security?

Trail of the cover-up

Gonzalez first spoke out internally against the corruption in the House of Death case in early 2004, within weeks of a DEA agent and his family being confronted by Santillan’s death squad, who had apparently mistaken the agent for a competing smuggler.

In the wake of that confrontation, and after discovering that the ICE informant was a participant in the House of Death murders, Gonzalez sent an internal letter on Feb. 24, 2004, to the top ICE official in El Paso and to Johnny Sutton, the U.S. Attorney in San Antonio, Texas. In that letter, Gonzalez dropped the dime on the whole sordid tale.

But rather than investigate the charges, officials within the Department of Justice (DOJ) went after Gonzalez, seeing to it that he was reprimanded and his career tarnished with a negative job-performance review. Gonzalez also was ordered to remain silent on the whole matter.

According to Gonzalez, the retaliation he experienced after writing the whistleblower letter was initiated at the behest of U.S. Attorney Sutton, who wanted to bury the letter to avoid compromising a career-boosting case against a major narco-trafficker. That means a U.S. Attorney is implicated in the cover-up of a U.S. government informant’s participation in mass murder.

Sutton has consistently declined to comment on the House of Death case and the cover-up allegations, despite repeated efforts by Narco News to arrange an interview with him.

But the trail of this cover-up appears to go much higher than even Sutton.

High-level officials within the departments of Justice and Homeland Security also were aware of the murderous activities of the informant Ramirez Peyro, and yet they allowed that informant to continue his bloody assignment, according to a sworn legal affidavit prepared by the Assistant U.S. Attorney (Juanita Fielden) who oversaw the House of Death case.

Fielden’s affidavit is included as an exhibit in a civil rights case filed against U.S. law enforcement officials by the families of the victims in the House of Death mass murder. That case is currently pending in U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas.

And now Gonzalez wants to see what else is behind the door of the House of Death cover-up.

The following is from a motion filed in his pending discrimination lawsuit in federal court in Miami:


Defendant [the Department of Justice] has included in their witness list several witnesses that intend to testify to a Joint Assessment Team (JAT) assessment of the Ciudad Juarez matters….

The Defendant’s witnesses that intend to testify as to the JAT assessment of Ciudad Juarez matters are: Karen Tandy, Administrator for DEA; Michele Leonhart, Deputy Administrator for DEA; Michael Ferguson; and Rodney Benson.

On February 24, 2004, Plaintiff [Gonzalez] sent a letter to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SAC in El Paso, Texas [and a copy to U.S. Attorney Sutton] addressing his concerns about the Ciudad Juarez matters under the instructions of Michael Ferguson, DEA’s Chief of Operations.

When DEA upper management learned of Plaintiff’s letter, Plaintiff was accused of using poor judgment and that Plaintiff should have waited for the JAT assessment to be completed before acting as he did.

The JAT was assembled to examine or review the procedures utilized by both agencies (DEA and ICE) that led to the problem at hand. After the assessment was completed a report was drafted and issued to the agencies, a copy of which was never given to Plaintiff.

Defendant’s witnesses can only testify to the JAT Ciudad Juarez matters by having read the JAT report.

Plaintiff moves this Honorable Court to disallow testimony of Defendant’s witnesses at trial on the JAT Ciudad Juarez [House of Death] matters, or in the alternative to order Defendant to produce the government’s JAT Report on the Ciudad Juarez matters….

However, the government, in its response to Gonzalez’ motion, essentially claims that the results of the JAT report really are none of his business — or ours for that matter.


Plaintiff [Gonzalez] … assumes in his motion that the merits of the investigation (rather than simply the fact of the investigation) will be the subject of testimony.

Defendant’s [the Department of Justice's] position is that the conclusions reached are not relevant to this matter — merely the fact that a significant investigation was being conducted at the time plaintiff wrote his letter.

So the government doesn’t want Gonzalez to have the JAT report for the purposes of his discrimination litigation, even though that same government plans to use that report as a sledgehammer against Gonzalez — presumably by claiming that Gonzalez’ letter somehow interfered with the JAT investigation.

But since we can’t see the results of that investigation, how can we ever know if Gonzalez’ letter to ICE and Sutton caused any harm? What if his letter actually helped shake some more information out of the system that led to a more thorough JAT report in the end?

And just suppose that the findings of the JAT report did uncover wrongdoing on the part of U.S. officials and law enforcers in the House of Death mass murder. Maybe, then, the strings of the cover-up would begin to unravel from the inside — should that JAT report ever be made public.

But, really, it’s none of our business if U.S. officials helped to facilitate mass murder in Mexico. It’s our patriotic duty to trust the government unquestioningly.

And just in case you don’t, rest assured that the JAT report is being reviewed right now “ to determine whether portions have to be classified as National Security Information.