June 1, 2013
President Barack Obama is expected to nominate former George W. Bush-era Deputy Attorney General James Comey as the next director of the FBI, according to multiple media outlets that have published fawning reports about Comey’s supposed independence and upstanding moral character.
Comey, according to those reports, is deemed the ideal pick because he is a Republican who also is admired by Democrats for his principled stand against the Bush Administration’s warrantless surveillance program — a still highly-classified program Comey ultimately acquiesced to after some unspecified technical changes were adopted by the Bush administration.
But is Comey, who now serves on the board of the giant British Lender HSBC, really the guy in the white hat the commercial media – always enamored of power and not so much principle – paints him to be?
HSBC must think so. The bank brought Comey onboard, providing him annual compensation of some $190,000, to serve as window dressing for their recovery from over-indulging in the illegal drug market. The lender late last year received a slap on the wrist from the US Department of Justice (paying a relatively small fine compared to its billions in annual profits in exchange for promising to be good citizens in the future) — but only after admitting to allowing its US and Mexican subsidiaries to serve as money-laundering machines for Mexican and Colombian narco-traffickers.
Comey this past March was brought on board to serve on HSBC’s Financial Systems Vulnerability Committee — which is supposed to help the bank improve its legal compliance. So, in some senses, it could be argued Comey is now collecting a consulting fee that is, in part, being paid to him from the fruit of drug-money laundering.
However, there is a far more sinister story buried in Comey’s record of government service that is not likely to be aired publicly in our democracy by its commercial media, or examined by a self-interested Congress, unless Narco News, or another independent voice like it, brings that news to light yet again.
There is little likelihood that these facts about Comey’s past will have any effect on the PR steamroller that is now clearing the path for his anointment as the next director of the FBI, arguably the most powerful law enforcement post in the country and one that he could occupy for at least 10 years — well beyond the term of the current president, so this is an issue that reverberates far beyond simple partisan politics.
In other words, folks, this one really does matter — even if Comey’s appointment is a fait accompli.
According former DEA Special Agent in Charge Sandalio Gonzalez, Comey played key role in helping to cover up what he describes as “one of the darkest chapters in the history of US federal law enforcement.”
The case to which Gonzalez is referring is the House of Death — in which a US government informant assisted, and even participated in, the torture and murder of a dozen people, mostly Mexican citizens, who were then buried in the backyard of a house in Juarez, Mexico.
In addition, due to the informant’s Department of Justice-condoned homicidal activities, a DEA agent and his family were pulled over in the streets of Juarez by the House of Death killers [Juarez cops working with the Juarez Drug Organization] and also nearly delivered to the grave — forcing the DEA to subsequently evacuate all of its personnel from Juarez.
Gonzalez, incensed by the House of Death murders and the near assasination of a fellow DEA agent and his family, wrote a letter to his counterpart at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, denouncing the informant’s activities and the complicity of federal agents and prosecutors in the bloodshed. The informant, Guillermo Ramirez Peyro (aka, Lalo) was under the supervision of ICE as well as the US Attorney’s Office for Western Texas — then headed by Johnny Sutton — while Comey was deputy attorney general and Sutton’s boss.
From Gonzalez Feb. 24, 2004, letter, directed to ICE the ICE division head in El Paso:
I’ve had an opportunity to digest what you’ve said as well as to conduct a careful review of the material in this case. I am now writing to express to you my frustration and outrage at the mishandling of the (Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug organization) investigation that has resulted in unnecessary loss of human life in the Republic of Mexico, and endangered the lives of Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and their immediate families assigned to the DEA Office in (Ciudad Juarez) Mexico.
Gonzalez’ letter made it’s way to then-US Attorney Sutton, who, rather than investigating the serious charges contained in the letter, instead complained to his superiors at DOJ headquarters in Washington.
Comey served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. The House of Death murders played out between August 2003 and January 2004. The commercial media, though, to this day has been silent about the ensuing cover-up orchestrated at the highest levels of DOJ that has assured no one in Justice has been held accountable for the House of Death murders — which were carried out by an informant who had made his US government handlers aware of his assistance and even participation in the murders, often in advance of the murders.
From a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in 2006 by a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso:
Between August 2003, and January, 2004, Ramirez [the informant] was sent to Juarez by ICE for various missions and operations. During that time, Ramirez witnessed and participated in numerous murders ordered by Heriberto Santillan Tabares (Santillan), then a high-ranking member of the Juarez Cartel. Victims, drug dealers and transporters of drugs, were brought to the house at Calle Parsioneros 3633 in Ciudad Juarez (Parsioneros House), tortured for information as to the location of drugs or money, and then murdered.
After each murder, Ramirez reported the murder to agents of ICE. Ramirez also testified that ICE agents [who were working the case closely with a DOJ prosecutor] were aware in advance that murders would take place. For example, the following exchange occurred during testimony at an immigration hearing concerning Ramirez, who is presently in U.S. custody:
“Lashus [Government Counsel]: Did you tell your — the ICE officers that you were aware that Mr. Santillan had ordered the deaths of people associated with the cartel?
Ramirez Peyro: Yes.
Lashus: Did you tell them before, right before it happened?
Ramirez Peyro: Yeah, several occasions. For example, in one occasion in Chicago, and Santillan talks to me, so I could send the boy there to open the [Parsioneros] house and me being in Chicago with the agents from ICE, and they knew because I authorize for them to hear my phone conversations. And besides that, I told them what’s going on, and in El Paso [federal agents] they were listening my phone calls.”
DEA commander Gonzalez personally briiefed the staffs of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., about the House of Death carnage and DOJ officials’ complicity in the murders.
Still, no one at DOJ (which oversees the DEA) or the Department of Homeland Security (which oversees ICE) has ever been questioned publicly, under oath, by any member of Congress about their role in allowing the informant, Ramirez Peyro, himself a former Mexican cop, to participate in murder while working a case for DOJ — while Comey was managing the department.
In fact, the only investigation ever conducted was an internal agency probe, known as the JAT, undertaken jointly by DEA and ICE, that to this day —despite numerous FOIA requests filed by Narco News seeking its release — remains buried, its findings never made public.
The assertion that Comey played a role in the House of Death cover-up, in light of his pending nomination to be the top dog at the FBI, should be a big deal, given one of the FBI’s jobs is to handle informants during criminal investigations, and to also deal with the intricacies and sensitivities of law enforcement operations carried out on foreign soil. Narco News did contact Comey previously to ask him about his role in the House of Death case, but he declined to comment.
However, the allegation that he did play some role in the cover-up is not based on a flimsy six-degrees-of-separation conspiracy theory. There is a long paper trail illuminating the facts, which has been uncovered by Narco News over the course of years, but, again, ignored to this day by a commercial media now fawning over the impending nomination of Comey as the next FBI director.
“The situation is perplexing, for it appears that both White House staff and mainstream media have ignored the indisputable facts,” Gonzalez says. “The House of Death murder cover-up is a total joint fiasco by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and one of the darkest chapters in the history of U.S. federal law enforcement.
“It is ironic for the president to aggressively preach accountability in government while nominating as FBI Director the person [Comey] who managed the Justice Department when those tragic events took place. The people deserve better.”
The Paper Trail
Gonzalez penned his letter to ICE in late February 2004. After Sutton ran the letter up the DOJ chain of command, then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Catherin O’Neil, on March 4, 2004, responded with an email titled: “Possible press involving the DEA (Juarez) ICE Informant issue.”
That email was sent to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s chief of staff, David Ayers, to one of his counsels, Jeff Taylor; and to then-Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey. Then-DEA Administrator Karen Tandy also was cced on the email.
Although some information in the email, discovered via a FOIA request by Narco News, is redacted, most of the missing information was obtained from Narco News’ very reliable sources. (In the excerpts below, text that has been redacted is inside text brackets.)
From the O’Neil email:
We just heard from Johnny Sutton that the DEA SAC in El Paso [Special Agent in Charge Gonzalez] wrote a rather lengthy and inflammatory letter to the ICE SAC regarding the “mishandling of the [Santillan] investigation that has resulted in unnecessary loss of human life in the Republic of Mexico and endangered the lives of (DEA agents).” [REDACTED] and I are getting a copy of the letter, as well as an ICE response. I am also speaking with [Sutton] at 8 pm (CST) tonight on this matter. (He was driving and could not talk at length.)
Please be aware that, according to [Sutton], [REDACTED] has reached out to get a copy of certain reports of interview of the CI [confidential informant] in the investigation. The [REDACTED] Times apparently had enough information to ask for the report which states that the CI [known as “Lalo”] “supervised the murders” of certain individuals. (Sutton) was not sure who was talking, but we are certainly concerned that there may be press and there may be inquiries here in DC as well.…
The next day, March 5, then DEA Administrator Karen Tandy sent off another email to O’Neil, Ayers, Taylor and Comey (as well as others within DEA, including Michele Leonhart, the current DEA administrator) — an email that later showed up as an exhibit in a court case filed by Gonzalez.
Subject: Re: Possible press involving the DEA Juarez /ICE informant issue
DEA HQ officials were not aware of our el paso SAC’s inexcusable letter until last evening – although a copy of the letter first landed in the foreign operations section sometime the day before. The SAC [Gonzalez] did not tell anyone at HQ that he was contemplating such a letter, and did not discuss it or share it with HQ until we received the copy as noted above, well after it was sent.
I apologized to Johnny Sutton last night and he and I agreed on a no comment to the press. [Emphasis added.]
Mike Furgason, [DEA] Chief of Operations, notified the El Paso SAC last night that he is not to speak to the press other than a no comment, that he is to desist writing anything regarding the Juarez matter and related case and defer to the joint management and threat assessment teams out of HQ – and he is to relay these directions to the rest of his El Paso Division.
The SAC, who reports to Michele [Leonhart], will be brought in next week for performance discussions to further address this officially.
So, within a bit more than a week of Gonzalez’ Feb. 24, 2004, letter, which blew the whistle on US Attorney Sutton and ICE’s role in the House of Death murders, a cover-up had already been put in motion, with Comey right in the middle of it.
The “joint management and threat assessment teams” were the same ICE and DEA agents that prepared the so-called JAT (Joint Assessment Team) report that was immediately deep-sixed upon its completion in March 2004. The “SAC” who was to be brought in for “performance discussions” was, in fact, Gonzalez.
As part of those “discussions,” Gonzalez received a negative job-performance review as retaliation for writing the letter blowing the whistle on the House of Death and was eventually pressured into retiring from DEA. He later filed a discrimination lawsuit against DOJ based, in part, on the retaliation he suffered after exposing the US government’s complicity in the House of Death — which led to a dozen gruesome murders and the near-assassination of a DEA agent and his family. DOJ agreed to settle the case in 2007 and paid Gonzales and his attorney $385,000.
But as part of that discrimination litigation, both former DEA Administrator Tandy as well as current DEA Administrator Leonhart were each compelled to testify under oath about the House of Death cover-up.
Following are some excerpts from those sworn testimonies that prove Comey was fully aware of the events surrounding the House of Death murders.
Jury Trial, Dec. 4, 2006 — Michele Leonhart questioned under oath:
Q. Okay. Now, did there come a time in which the Office of the Attorney General, in fact, the Attorney General of the United States himself [John Ashcroft at the time], wanted to know what was going on with this matter [the House of Death murders]?
Q And was there a plan in place with the acknowledged approval of the attorney general on how to handle the investigation of what events occurred in Ciudad Juarez?
A. Yes. We notified the attorney general of the United States and the deputy attorney general of the United States [James Comey] of what we had learned and the events and our concerns. We told him that we had talked to customs [ICE] and let them know what we had found out. Our administrator [then Karen Tandy] had also contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office [Sutton in San Antonio], and we thought the best thing we could do is get the agencies together, put an independent review team together to go down and find the facts because the person I was talking to said he had a different set of facts and didn’t see it the way that we saw it. [Emphasis added.]
Again, that independent review team produced the internal JAT report, which was buried by DOJ and Homeland Security as part of the House of Death cover-up.
Following are some excerpts from then-DEA Administrator Tandy’s Aug. 23, 2005, deposition, in the Gonzalez discrimination lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Miami. Tandy is being questioned by former DEA agent Gonzalez’ attorney, Richard Diaz.
Diaz: Based on your recollection of the letter, do you believe that anything that Mr. Gonzalez wrote in the [Feb. 24, 2004] letter was untruthful?
Tandy: I don’t have a recollection either way. It was such colossally poor, fatal judgment on Sandy’s [Gonzalez’] part, to get in the middle of what he knew was a sensitive, established, ongoing process to deal with the issues.
Diaz: Were you aware of the matters that were raised in the letter [which included the alleged complicity of ICE agents, US prosecutors and a U.S. informant in mass murder] before you became aware of the letter [Gonzalez’ letter] itself?
Tandy: Absolutely. I had already briefed the Attorney General [Ashcroft] and Deputy Attorney General [Comey] on the issues, the underlying issues with ICE’s handling of this informant, along with the AUSA [Fielden, who worked under Sutton and was the federal prosecutor directly overseeing the House of Death case]. [Emphasis added.]
[Recall: Tandy sent an e-mail on March 5, 2004, to a number of high ranking Department of Justice officials — including Comey — concerning Gonzalez’ letter, indicating that she only recently became aware of it. In the e-mail, Tandy describes Gonzalez’ letter as “inexcusable” and indicates that she “apologized to Johnny Sutton … and he and I agreed on a no comment to the press.”]
Burying the Dead
And for those who might still have some lingering doubts that a cover-up did play out in the House of Death case, consider the following events that took place after Gonzalez was silenced and his letter, along with the JAT report, were buried in 2004.
• U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton in San Antonio, Texas, announced in April 2005 that his office cut a plea bargain with Heriberto Santillan-Tabares, who U.S. prosecutors claimed was a top lieutenant in Vicente Carrillo Fuentes’ Juarez drug organization and who employed Ramirez Peyro (the US government informant) to oversee the Juarez House of Death—including assuring the bodies were buried.
Santillan had been charged with cocaine and marijuana smuggling along with five counts of murder. His case was slated to go to trial in May 2005 in federal district court in San Antonio.
The plea deal capped more than a year-long effort at that point by DOJ prosecutors and ICE officials to keep a lid on the US government’s complicity in multiple murders in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez. The Santillan case was investigated by federal agents under the jurisdiction of Sutton, who was plugged into the Bush administration. Sutton, a former policy coordinator for the Bush-Cheney Transition Team, served as the Criminal Justice Policy director from 1995-2000 for then-Governor George W. Bush.
Under the plea deal, Santillan was sentenced to 25 years in prison for “conducting a continuing criminal enterprise,” according to Sutton’s office. However, all of the murder charges against him were dropped.
A sanguine reading of the plea deal exposes a callous racism was at play in this case. In other words, because the homicide victims were Mexican citizens, the murder charges were expendable, particularly if avoiding prosecution — thereby preventing embarrassing facts from becoming public — helped to protect the careers of U.S. law enforcers.
• On Feb. 12, 2004, nearly a month after the arrest of Santillan and the unearthing of the House of Death victims, ICE informant Ramirez Peyro traveled to the office of the Mexican General Consulate in Dallas, Texas, to provide a statement to a representative of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office.
As part of that statement, Ramirez Peyro described a double execution in which he played a participatory role — and this was after he told ICE agents about his participation in the initial House of Death murder in early August 2003:
Another execution that I remember was on November 23, 2003. The municipal police of Juarez seized 70 kilograms of marijuana belonging to [Mexican state police] commander Miguel Loya that was going to be transported via the Puente Libre (free bridge) in Ciudad Juarez. This seizure caused the deaths of “Paisa” and “El Chapo” because Santillan ordered me to have these drug mules meet him in the little Parsioneros house [the House of Death].
In July 2009, Ramirez Peyro also described in detail those same murders during a recorded interview with Narco News that was aired on Mike Levine’s Expert Witness show on Pacifica Radio in New York City.
Following is an excerpt from that interview:
I call Santilllan … and he said why don’t you come to the house just to talk. So I said all right and we went to the house and then Santillan arrived, and then another 15 state police agents, among them Comandante [Miguel] Loya [a Mexican state police commander who worked as an enforcer for Santillan].
… So I explain to these guys [Paisa and Chapo] the situation that I already told them, that they can’t mess with us [the VCF organization]. If they don’t feel respect for me, they better feel respect for the organization because behind me there was a very big team of people and they were messing with all of us.
… In the mean time, Comandante Loya comes for their IDs and he leave for the kitchen and starts running their names over several channels, and then Santillan basically repeats what I told to them and then Comandante Loya repeats it again, and at some point he said, “… You need to cover your head. Just pull up your shirts and put it around your head.”
So they did it, and he just grabbed them by the neck and put them face down on the floor. They start to put like some kind of duck tape around their head, but one of them started doing noise so Comandante Loya made signs to someone [one of the other state cops] to pass him a gun with a silencer; so he shot this guy. And this other one, he heard the shots also and started making noise, so he shot him also.
And so, after driving Paisa and Chapo to the House of Death on Parsioneros Street in Juarez at the request of Santillan, the informant remains at the house and threatens the victims just prior to the pair being shot by a Mexican state police commander while 14 other state cops look on — one handing Commander Loya a gun with a silencer to carry out the cold-blooded murders.
The murders of Paisa and Chapo mark the second and third known homicides carried out at the House of Death in which Ramirez Peyro played a direct role — either by supervising the murder, as in the case of Mexican attorney Fernando Reyes, or by delivering the victims to their assassins, as in the case of Paisa and Chapo.
In both cases, Ramirez Peyro claims he informed his ICE handlers, who were working the case under the direction of DOJ prosecutors, about his role in those murders.
In the wake of the unraveling of the House of Death, Ramirez Peyro was picked up by federal agents and spent nearly six years behind bars, most of that in solitary confinement, fighting DHS’ efforts to deport him back to Mexico and to a certain death at the hands of the narco-traffickers he betrayed.
Ramirez Peyro’s release from jail in April 2010 1came only after he won a crucial court victory. After ruling against Ramirez Peyro in several prior decisions, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in late March 2010 finally came down on his side, stating that he “has shown that he more likely than not would be tortured upon return to Mexico, either directly by government agents or indirectly by government agents turning him over to the cartel.”
Ramirez Peyro is now living in hiding in the U.S., maybe in a neighborhood near you.
• Narco News sent a FOIA request to ICE in June 2005, shortly after ICE agents made threatening visits to this journalist’s home and workplace (another newspaper that has nothing to do with Narco News or its coverage of the House of Death).
During the visits to my home and workplace, the ICE agents were very ambiguous about their purpose, stating that they only wanted to know my “source.” They also threatened to get a subpoena from US Attorney Sutton if I failed to cooperate. Still, I refused to divulge my sources on any subject.
The ICE agents visited my home and workplace on May 23 and May 24, 2005, respectively. The visits occurred while Narco News was in the thick of its coverage of the House of Death case. Between March 23 and May 5 of 2005, Narco News published a series of five stories exposing for the first time then-US Attorney Johnny Sutton’s role in the cover-up of the House of Death mass murder and his efforts (and those of others within DOJ) to retaliate against the DEA division head who blew the whistle on that cover-up. (That DEA commander, Gonzalez, served as the Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s El Paso field office at the time of the House of Death murders and subsequent government cover-up of a paid ICE informant’s role in those homicides.)
ICE stonewalled Narco News FOIA request seeking records detailing the reason for the ICE agents’ intimidating visits for years but was finally forced to release some documents in 2010.
An examination of those FOIA documents shows that the offending agents worked for ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR, aka, internal affairs), which, like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland, turns out to be the very same unit that was put in charge of investigating the agents’ intimidating actions against Narco News.
So, ICE OPR essentially investigated itself.
From the FOIA records:
On June 4, 2007 [at that point, two years after the so-called investigation was opened, OPR investigators] interviewed [name blacked out] ASAC [Assistant Special Agent in Charge], OPR, San Antonio, TX … [He] was questioned concerning his knowledge of actions taken by [ICE OPR agents] in connection with their contact with reporter Bill Conroy during May 2005.
… Investigation indicates [ICE OPR agents] contacted reporter Conroy in furtherance of an official investigation being conducted by the OPR San Antonio Office [the same city that was the home base of then-U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton] and in compliance with a proper directive to do so given by [name blacked out]. This investigation is closed.
At least one courageous Congresswoman at the time had the guts to call out the leadership of DOJ and DHS on the intimidation directed against Narco News. Unfortunately, that kind of courage in Washington is often rewarded with derision and ostracism — and the Congresswoman did ultimately pay a price for her tendency to speak truth to power and was eventually voted out of office.
From a letter penned by the Congresswoman and directed to top officials at DOJ and DHS:
June 29, 2005
The Honorable Michael Chertoff, Secretary U.S. Department of Homeland Security Washington, D.C. 20528
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Secretary Chertoff and General Gonzales:
Recent behavior by agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security / Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Division – acting in the jurisdiction of U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton – constituted a violation of the U.S. Constitutional right of a free press.
I write you to plead that you put a stop to this kind of outrageous activity in each of your departments and to take measures to prevent such actions from occurring in the future.
… In particular, General Gonzales, I address this letter to you because many eyebrows have been raised here in Congress by the confluence of facts that demonstrate that Mr. Conroy, as a journalist, has reported a series of stories involving the “House of Death” case in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in which an undercover informant in the process of seeking to make a drug case for U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s office, allegedly committed numerous homicides while under the protection of that office….
Cynthia McKinney U.S. Representative, Fourth District – Georgia
CC: Michael J. Garcia Assistant Secretary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 425 I St., NW Washington, D.C., 20536
If you, kind reader, know about the House of Death case, but are not aware of the extent of the cover-up — nor the fact that it went to the highest levels of the Department of Justice, including to Comey, who is now, according to multiple commercial media reports, in line to become the nation’s next FBI director — it’s because you’ve only read commercial media accounts of the case intended to sanitize and disappear the cover-up. And it is that same commercial media that is now attempting to manufacture consent for Comey’s fast-track Congressional approval to step into the FBI’s top job.
Unfortunately, we can’t expect Congress or the commercial media to do anything to delve deeper into Comey’s role in the House of Death, or to force the release of the long-buried JAT report, because to date they essentially have helped to provide cover for the cover-up.
And it is equally the case that the Obama administration, once Comey is nominated officially, will have no political incentive to air their own candidate’s dirty laundry in the House of Death mass murder.
So it seems the die is cast, and we as a nation will likely put a man in one of the most powerful posts in the nation, a position where he will make calls daily on civil rights, and life and death, without fully vetting his role in what former DEA Special Agent in Charge Gonzalez describes as one of “the darkest chapters in the history of U.S. federal law enforcement.”
That same history demonstrates, over and over again, that a people get the government they deserve. So, we — us, kind readers — are the last best hope for the nation. Our media, our Congress, even our president, can remain silent in the face of injustice only if we, the people, do so as well.