Customs Cops Visit Bill Conroy with an Attack on Press Freedom

At 5:55 p.m. last night, Monday, May 23rd, in San Antonio, Texas, Agent Carlos Salazar of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, accompanied by a female agent who failed to identify herself, made a surprise visit to the home of Narco News journalist Bill Conroy, a reporter, and author of the online book Borderline Security, who has broken a string of stories about embarrassing and worrisome problems inside Salazar’s agency.

Identifying himself as an agent of “Customs OPR” (short for Office of Professional Responsibility, better known as “Internal Affairs”), Salazar told Conroy’s wife of 23 years, Teddi Beam-Conroy, that he was looking for Bill. “He’s at work,” replied Teddy. Salazar asked when he would be home. “Probably around 7ish,” she replied, asking the agents for a business card. Salazar flashed his badge. His partner never identified herself.

Teddi got a pen and paper and wrote down the agent’s cell phone number, so that Bill could contact Salazar: The number Salazar left was 210-336-0036... A short while later, journalist Bill Conroy dialed that number – 210-336-0036 – but Salazar did not answer. This was the first sign of deviation from standard operating procedure by the Customs agent: Internal Affairs agents (those who investigate other Customs agents) are supposed to keep their cell phones on at all hours and are aware of all incoming calls. It’s part of the job… but not for Salazar at 210-336-0036 apparently… At least not last night… (Does anyone know if government employee Carlos Salazar is answering his cell phone, 210-336-0036, tonight, unlike last night? Inquiring citizens have a right to know!)

Today, Tuesday, May 24th, after the intimidating visit by cops to the family home – “I had to explain to my son that I hadn’t done anything wrong,” says Conroy - authentic journalist Bill Conroy went to work at his day job, as the mild-mannered and respected editor of a prominent business periodical.

Bill had left his own cell phone number on the voice mail of Agent Salazar at 210-336-0036. But Salazar didn’t bother to call. He preferred, instead, to barge into Conroy’s office at 2:30 p.m.

“I got a call from our receptionist. I was in my office editing copy for this week's paper,” says Conroy. “The receptionist told me a Carlos Salazar was here to see me. I grabbed my tape recorder and a notebook and headed to the front of the office.”

“When I got to the reception area, Salazar and another agent, a male, about my height, 5 foot 10 inches, were standing there,” Conroy continues. “I said, ‘I was expecting you guys. Let's go into the conference room.’”

“I sat down,” tells Conroy. “Salazar sat down and opened up a black leather folder with papers in it. The other agent remained standing. I asked for their names - and they told me. Of course, I knew who Salazar was; the other guy ripped through his name. I heard something that I believe to be White, the first name was a common one like Tom or Mike, but I really didn't catch it; I was in full multi-tasking mode.”

“I immediately said I was going to record the conversation and showed them the tape recorder. White objected immediately, saying I couldn't do that. ‘This is an official investigation.’ They both then pulled out their badges, just like in a Dragnet show. I told them I was aware they were there on official business. (The visit to my house the prior day tipped me off to that bit of reality.) I told them I still wanted to record the conversation. They continued to object. I then said I wasn't going to talk with them absent the tape recorder, that whatever they needed they could get from the story that was already published. I then suggested they provide me with their questions in writing and I would look them over and get back to them. They again refused. Salazar then said that he did want to talk about the story. ‘I want to know your source,’ he said point blank. I said I'm not going to talk beyond what was already in the story.”

“This got the White guy pissed,” notes Conroy. “I think he was playing the bad cop role. They both got up to leave. On the way out, White said to Salazar, something to the effect, ‘I guess we'll take this to the U.S. Attorney then.’”

Now, what does this tell us about the way that “Sherlock Salazar” and “Gee Whizzer White” conduct business on the taxpayer payroll? Apparently, they made these two harassing visits to a prominent journalist, at his family home, and again at his office, without having talked to the U.S. Attorney for that region of Texas. (As one U.S. law enforcement agent told Narco News today, “that just is not done.”)

Could it be that Salazar and White are rogue agents, acting to intimidate and harass the press, without the backing of U.S. Attorney Johnny “House of Death” Sutton, another frequent subject of investigative stories by the very same Bill Conroy published in Narco News?

“This whole scene lasted maybe 10 or 15 minutes,” recalls Conroy. “As they left the conference room, I got up as well and followed them. At that point Salazar asked me who my supervisor was. ‘Does he know you write for the Narcosphere?’ he asked. I informed him that my boss was aware that I was on the board of the nonprofit Fund for Authentic Journalism, and left it at that. He then asked for my boss's name. I said, ‘I'm sure you already know that,’ but added that they could ask the receptionist if they wished.”

“I walked away. They went and talked to the receptionist and had them page my boss,” says Conroy. “My publisher appeared up front. Salazar closed his folder and asked to speak to the publisher, ‘alone.’ The agents and my publisher went into a large conference room, which is across from the small conference room where I had met with them previously.

“I went back to my office and fumed, trying to read copy, that is, to get my job done. The paper goes to press on Wednesday,” Conroy adds. “A short time later, my publisher came into my office. I expected that I might be fired. I really didn't know. But he was cool. He basically said that he told them I'm a journalist and that the story I wrote was done on my own time and had nothing to do with the newspaper. He knew full well they were trying to get him to come down on me. So my boss took a very courageous stand and basically told them there was nothing he could do to help them at this point.”

“He did say, that after showing him some article, which he really didn't have a chance to read, that the agents told him this whole matter was about a leaked memo. The agents told my publisher that the leaked memo itself was not classified, but they wanted to find the source of the leak, because of the fear that this source ‘might leak classified documents in the future.’”

There, another gross violation of due process under American law: The “leak” of a government document, a public document, that belongs rightfully to all the people in the land, was not even illegal. But “Sherlock Salazar” and “Gee-Whizzer White” are chasing a “crime” that has not been committed. And, in their overzealous and unethical efforts to track down and punish a courageous government whistleblower within their agency, they tried to intimidate the children and wife of a journalist, and then tried to intimidate his boss at a newspaper that had nothing to do with the story at hand,

Agent Carlos Salazar was so inept that he never even told Conroy which story (and thus, which source) he was chasing.

The story that best fits the description that I can think of is the following:

Homeland Security memo reveals terrorism records are being sanitized

That story led to some head-rolling inside the Department Homeland Security, including the transfer, out of a coveted Washington DC sinecure, of one of the officials responsible for the memo: a document in which officials order Customs agents to tamper with the results of anti-terrorism investigations.

If that is the story (I guess I’ll have to ask Agent Salazar at 210-336-0036, from here, once I find a working telephone somewhere in a country called América), this botched attempt to intimidate journalist Bill Conroy may backfire even higher. For as much as U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton’s political ambitions have likely been stunted by the shining light of Conroy’s reports on his mishandling of the House of Death case, I very much doubt that Sutton will allow himself to be dragged into a media circus over the intimidation of the journalist most renowned for investigating Sutton himself. I mean, that wouldn’t look very good for Johnny Sutton, would it?

Meanwhile, Authentic Journalist Bill Conroy dressed himself in glory today. These goons tried to intimidate his family with slimey underworld “we know where you live” tactics. And they tried to get Conroy fired from his day job by talking to his boss at a newspaper that had nothing to do with his report. And Bill Conroy - even with his livelihood threatened - stood firm.

Conroy protected his sources, as authentic journalists do. Word will now spread far and wide that Bill Conroy is a man that whistleblowers and sources can trust. He was tested today. And he passed the test. And my guess is that in their efforts to destroy a journalist, Agent Salazar and whomever, if anyone, is behind this rogue-style cop action, just made the already formidable Bill Conroy even stronger.

Needless to say, but worth repeating: An attack on one of our journalists is an attack on us all. The entire authentic journalism army stands proud and tall in defense of our colleague Bill Conroy. We will stand with him, nationally and internationally, and in favor of the people’s right to know, to the ultimate consequences. Bill Conroy is not alone tonight, tomorrow night, or forever more.

As for Agent Carlos Salazar (he’s the guy at 210-336-0036), I hope for his sake this wasn’t a rogue, unauthorized attack on the press on his part. Because, so far, every other public official that has tried to silence a Bill Conroy story has ended up causing himself (or herself) problems when his or her superiors read the facts reported in Narco News.

The visits by the Customs cops to Bill Conroy’s home and workplace this week confirm the accuracy of his reports: they wouldn’t go fishing for the source of a story that wasn’t accurate. (To paraphrase Homer Simpson: “It hurts because it is true!”) They also confirm that many of our best readers are Homeland Security officials. (Thanks, guys, for your continuing readership.) After all, they, too, have to learn from Narco News what is happening with the security of the homeland along the Border: thus the obsession to try and intimidate our reporters and us into silence.

But there is no silence in a country called América tonight…

And from Bolivia, where Luis Gómez and Jean Friedman-Rudovsky report from the tumultuous front of a nation engulfed in immediate history, to the Border, where Bill Conroy inflicts the comfortable and the corrupt, and from all the other corners of our América...There will be even less silence tomorrow.

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About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.