A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.


Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011

"U.S. spies operate in Tijuana"

El Mexicano runs story on U.S. presence in and around Tijuana; story appears based on U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy's June 15 testimony on drug tunnels

El Mexicano ran a story Wednesday entitled "U.S. spies operate in Tijuana," saying the U.S. is watching the movements of politicians, business owners, law-enforcement officials and criminals in various ways in Tijuana. While this is hardly news, the paper said a source told it that part of the U.S. strategy "is to obtain the necessary information for Mexican authorities to act, as the Mexican military, whom the U.S. trusts more, has acted."

The story cites the June 15 Senate testimony of U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy on preventing drug tunnels across the border. (El Mexicano reported that the testimony took place on July 15). That testimony included her saying that Mexico is receiving tunnel equipment and a robot through the Mérida initiative. She said: "ICE Tijuana Special agents and the San Diego BEST Tunnel Task Force are developing a training program for Mexican military and SSP officers on the proper use of the equipment."

Some key parts of her testimony:

• "But experience shows that when one tunnel shuts down, a new one invariably takes its place. The highly organized Sinaloa Cartel is believed to be responsible for most of the large drug smuggling tunnels discovered in California. Despite its devotion of immense time and resources to create an ultimately collapsed tunnel, this cartel is not deterred. It simply engineers another one. Accordingly, dismantling the cartel, not just the tunnel, is and must be the ultimate goal."

• "Another factor is that the technology used to create tunnels is outpacing the creation of effective technologies for discovering them. For example, we have information that the cartels are purchasing highly sophisticated equipment that is capable of cutting through metal and concrete at costs as high as $50,000 to $75,000."

• "Due to the difficulty of conducting historical investigation once a tunnel is found, we need to rely more on human intelligence to develop real time information and wiretaps.
"We also need to involve property owners and managers in the tunnel discovery process. And we stand ready to prosecute the bad actors."

• Cooperation between the Government of Mexico (GoM) and U.S. officials on issues related to tunnels has increased in the past several years. The ICE Assistant Attaché office in Tijuana, Mexico is currently establishing a joint ICE-GoM investigative tunnel response team that will focus on the identification and investigation of tunnels on the Mexico side of the border. The team will initially focus its efforts in the Tijuana area and eventually expand its scope to respond to tunnels detected along the entire Southwest Border.
"ICE has also procured emergency rescue, tunnel safety equipment, and tunnel exploring robots to verify the safety and stability of the tunnels prior to entry by law enforcement. GoM Ministry of Public Security (SSP) officers assigned to the Mexico City BEST Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) and the Mexican military will receive a complete set of the tunnel equipment and a robot. ICE Tijuana Special agents and the San Diego BEST Tunnel Task Force are developing a training program for Mexican military and SSP officers on the proper use of the equipment. With this equipment at their disposal, Mexican law enforcement agencies will be able to respond to tunnel discoveries on the Mexican side of the border and secure the location while ensuring its safety for entry by law enforcement officers. Such equipment can also be used as rescue equipment in the event that a tunnel collapses. The equipment purchase was made possible through Mérida Initiative funds."

• "In sum, working with the federal law enforcement community and Government of Mexico to prevent, discover and shut down underground tunnels and to prosecute those who construct and use them is a top priority of the Department of Justice."

Previous mentions of recent drug tunnel discoveries:

Aug. 13 tunnel under Tijuana airport property
Aug. 3 tunnels found in Otay area of Tijuana
July 29 Mexicali tunnel