U.S. Special Ops Troops Deployed in Mexico, Leaked Briefing Confirms
Document, Prepared At the Request of a “Tea Party” Congressman, Indicates the 7th Special Forces Group “Has Conducted Operations in Every Latin American Country”
A Pentagon document has come to light that confirms the U.S. has put special operations troops on the ground in Mexico as the drug war there continues to escalate, notching some 40,000 murders since late 2006.
The document is a Department of Defense briefing presented in mid-May 2009 in Washington, D.C., to a group of business and political leaders from northwest Florida. The “Unclassified/For Official Use Only” briefing reveals the 18 Latin American nations where 7th Special Forces Group soldiers [Airborne Green Berets] were deployed as of fiscal year 2009, which ended Sept. 30, 2009.
Among those nations, according to the briefing document, was Mexico.
The document also indicates a 7th Special Forces unit was deployed in Mexico in 1996 as well, as part of a “counter-narcotics” mission.
The revelations in the briefing material are important because, to date, neither the Pentagon nor the State Department has confirmed that U.S. special forces have been deployed inside Mexico — a politically volatile subject in that Latin American nation given the rising drug-war death toll there and the “Yankee” history of U.S. Gunboat Diplomacy in the region.
From the vantage point of U.S. policymakers, the deployment of covert Pentagon special forces inside Mexico also is fraught with political peril, given the discovery of such operations by the targets, narco-traffickers in this case, could result in blowback against U.S. agents and interests in Mexico. It also could strain relations with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who is already feeling increasingly isolated due to his disastrous drug-war policy.
The 7th Special Forces Group (SFG) has played a key role since the 1980s in the bellicose history of Latin America, according to the briefing document and other sources. The 7th SFG has participated in numerous “counter-insurgency” missions in Central America as well as in the invasion of Panama in late 1989. It also has been quite active over the years in counter-narcotics missions in the South America Andean Ridge Countries of Colombia, Venezuela, Peru Ecuador and Bolivia; and more recently in hostage rescue operations in Colombia.
The latter operation, according information in the briefing document, involved the participation of the 7th SFG in the July 2008 rescue of three DoD contractors and noted Colombian activist and politician Ingrid Betancourt, among others, who were being held as hostages by the leftist FARC guerrillas.
Narco News reported on that rescue at the time, indicating then, against the tide of mainstream reporting, that a U.S. special-forces unit was deeply involved in the rescue — a report now seemingly confirmed by this briefing document.
Narco News also reported in detail last year about the activities of U.S. special forces operating covertly inside Mexico.
From that June 12, 2010, story:
The U.S. unit [operating inside Mexico], dubbed Task Force 7, since early 2009, according to the CIA operative, has helped to uncover a warehouse in Juarez packed with U.S. munitions and under the control of drug traffickers; provide critical intelligence that led to the raid of a Juarez sweatshop that was manufacturing phony Mexican military uniforms; worked with the Mexican military in uncovering a mass grave near Palomas, Mexico, just south of Columbus, New Mexico; and, behind the scenes, cooperated with the Mexican Navy in hunting down a major narco-trafficker, Arturo Beltran Leyva -- who was killed by Mexican Navy special forces last December  during a raid on a luxury apartment complex in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
That information was provided to Narco News at the time, according to the source, Tosh Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot who still has deep connections in the covert world, because the members of Task Force 7 believed they had been compromised by leaks.
In fact, Plumlee had relayed some information to Narco News about the task force and its security concerns as early as April of 2009 on the condition we not publish that information then for fear it might jeopardize the lives of the unit’s members.
By June of 2010, however, when Narco News published its story, Plumlee told Narco News the “bad guys” already knew the task-force members were in-country and, as a result, they had become targets. Coming forward in the media, Plumlee says, provided the task force with some cover that made it more difficult for bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., to avoid addressing the security breach — a tendency on the part of some who might wish to avoid the complications that come with accountability.
The stakes of the covert game are quite high, for all those on the ground who are touched by it, including innocent citizens – and are made even steeper when politics and special interests (including careerism) start dictating the shots, literally.
The whistleblower organization WikiLeaks recently released a State Department cable revealing that the Mexican Navy unit that conducted the operation against narco-capo Beltran Leyva “received extensive U.S. training” — which serves as further evidence supporting Narco News’ original reporting on the involvement of U.S. special forces in that operation.
The same cable, however, also points out that the killing of Beltran Leyva will, in the short-term (a period not defined precisely) result in a “spike” in narco-related violence “as inter- and intra-cartel battles are intensified by the sudden leadership gap in one of the country’s most powerful cartels.”
That ramped up violence was still playing out as recently as this past March, when the son of Mexican poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, along with six of his compadres, none of them involved in narco-trafficking, were brutally tortured and murdered near Cuernavaca (just outside Mexico City) – the same region where Beltran Leyva was killed. The senseless murder of those innocents has sparked a mass movement in Mexico, one that is currently marching toward Juarez, the most violent city on earth, where a collective, non-violent action in opposition to the drug war is planned for June 10.
The confirmation that U.S. special forces are now in the mix of the drug-war violence, which Mexican citizens by the millions now see as senseless and resulting in far too much collateral damage (the death and disappearances of thousands of innocent victims), is certain to enhance the public outrage in that land — given the quite visible U.S. role as the major consumer of the drugs and the major exporter of weapons and policies fueling the drug war.
Given this madness, and the inherent duplicity, treachery and buffoonery marking the drug war, it should come as no surprise to anyone, even if their sympathies are not with the U.S. special-forces in Mexico whose lives are jeopardized due to leaks and other security lapses, that the source of those transgressions (intentional or not) is, in part, traceable to the U.S. side of the border.
The briefing document revealing the extent of the 7th SFG operations in Latin America in fiscal 2009 – in 18 countries involving 21 missions and 165 soldiers, including Mexico — was made public by a Florida business group whose membership includes a number of defense contractors. That group, the Economic Development Council for Okaloosa County (EDC), via its Defense Support Initiative, made the May 14, 2009, briefing available on its Web site for all to see and download — including WikiLeaks and some media in Latin America who made it available in Spanish to their audiences (almost assuring that the narco-trafficking organizations being targeted by covert U.S. special forces also were tipped off to their presence in Mexico).
This occurred despite the fact that the briefing document was marked “For Official Use Only,” which, according to Ken McGraw, spokesman for the Pentagon’s U.S. Special Operations Command, means the document was “not to be released publicly.” McGraw adds that he does not “know the specifics” of the 7th SFG operation referred to in the briefing document, explaining that “by the end of the year, we [USSOCOM] will have operations in 120 countries.”
That briefing was prepared by the 7th SFG at the request of U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a far-right Republican with Tea Party leanings whose Florida district is about to become the new home for the 7th SFG (which is relocating from Ft. Bragg in North Carolina to Elgin Air Force Base in Florida’s panhandle).
Dan McFaul, chief of staff for Congressman Miller, stressed, when contacted by Narco News, that his boss did not attend the May 14, 2009, 7th SFG briefing.
“That was a non-classified briefing,” McFaul said. “The Congressman is on the [House] Intelligence Committee … and he is briefed at the classified level. … We request briefs on different issues affecting District 1 [Miller’s Congressional area] for chambers or economic development groups [and others], and so this [the 7th SFG briefing] could have been for something like that.”
Both the briefing document and a letter drafted by the EDC’s Defense Support Initiative chairman appear to indicate that was the case. McFaul said he had not received any other media inquiries about the restricted briefing document being made public prior to being contacted by Narco News.
Calls to the Okaloosa County EDC were not returned by press time.
However, someone as of Saturday, June 4, had removed the link on the EDC’s Web site that directs readers to the site where the briefing document can be downloaded. [See screen shot here of material removed]. The EDC Web-site download link for the document is still active, though, and can be accessed here — as well here should that EDC download link be deactivated in the future, with a screen shot here of the EDC download link as it exists as of the publish date of this story.
It is important to stress that there is no evidence that the Okaloosa County EDC, Congressman Miller or members of the 7th SFG intentionally included or made public information that might compromise the security of the U.S. special-forces operations in Mexico.
But it seems clear that somewhere along the line, some bad calls were made — beginning with the decision to include country and date-specific specific information about supposedly covert troop deployments in a non-classified briefing and to then put those briefing materials online, even though the document is marked “For Official Use Only.”
In fact, Narco News contacted the press office for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the 7th SFG, seeking comment on how the sensitive mission information ended up in a non-classified briefing, but was told no one was available to comment until next week, after Narco News’ deadline for this story.
Narco News also contacted USNORTHCOM, which has command control over DoD missions involving Mexico. Lt. Commander William Lewis, USNORTHCOM spokesman, said he would look into the matter and get back to Narco News after “finding out what can and cannot be released” about the matter.