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US Government Accused of Seeking to Conceal Deal Cut With Sinaloa “Cartel”
Oct 5 2011 - 6:38pm
U.S.-Backed Programs Supplying the Firepower for Mexico’s Soaring Murder Rate
Apr 20 2011 - 7:46pm
U.S. Private Sector Providing Drug-War Mercenaries to Mexico
Apr 13 2011 - 8:11pm
Tahrir and Beyond: Ten Days That Shook My World
Mar 26 2011 - 1:06am
Why Is TeleSur a Flop? Look No Farther than Its Libya Coverage
Feb 24 2011 - 11:39pm

Cuban embargo trumps Osama

In the grand scheme of policy options, what’s more important: foiling terrorist financing schemes, or tracking down American citizens who violate the embargo against Cuba?

Well, it appears the Bush administration deems Cuba to be a higher priority, according to a report in the latest issue of Money Laundering Alert, a subscription-only newsletter published by a former federal prosecutor.

Following is a snippet from the story:

In the years before and even after the September 11, 2001 attacks, a U.S. government agency responsible for tracking down and blocking terrorists financing -- the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) -- has devoted far more resources to Cuba travel ban violators....

In one case outlined in the story, OFAC, which is part of the Treasury Department, fined a mother of two $10,000 for failing to file the proper paperwork for her 10-day trip to Cuba.

Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) Insults Customs Agent

Ruben Gonzalez sent a letter earlier this year to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, He needed some help from the freshman senator who represents the Lone Star State.

Gonzalez is a high-ranking supervisor in the Houston office of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Gonzalez also is part of a group of Hispanic federal agents who are suing the Department of Homeland Security for alleged racial discrimination. He reached out to Cornyn for help in addressing some of the discrimination issues raised in the class-action case -- in part, because the senator appeared to be sensitive to the concerns of Latinos.

Despite his freshman status in Washington, Cornyn has solid connections to the White House. Prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate, Cornyn, a Republican, served as Attorney General of Texas from 1999-2002 — during the administration of Gov. George W. Bush.

A statement posted on the Web site for the Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association (FHLEOA) -- for which Gonzalez serves as vice president -- states the following:

Texas senator John Cornyn is a close friend of the president. Senator Cornyn publicly appears to support Hispanic issues, as can be found on his Web site. ...

The FHLEOA statement goes on to point out that last year, Cornyn made very strong remarks about an alleged racial slight of  lawyer Miguel A. Estrada, who at the time was a Bush nominee for a federal appeals-court judgeship.

Hispanic civil-rights group claims insurance `crime bureau' targets minorities

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is an official sounding name for a fraud-busting detective agency funded by the insurance industry.

In fact, NICB investigators refer to themselves as "special agents," the same title used by criminal investigators with federal agencies like the FBI and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (formerly the investigative arm of U.S. Customs).

The NICB even has agreements in place -- called Memoranda of Understanding, or MOUs -- with law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, that allow the private insurer-backed group to conduct joint criminal investigations with these tax-funded agencies. NICB special agents also use sophisticated computer-based investigative tactics that involve accessing and sharing data with government agencies.

Under the auspices of treaties negotiated between the United States and foreign countries, the NICB also conducts investigations overseas -- including in Central and South American countries. These treaties also facilitate the sharing of computer and other data between U.S.-based investigative agencies and the foreign countries.

So you've never heard of the NICB?

If that’s the case, one of the oldest Hispanic civil rights groups in the nation, the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, wants to shed some light on the group for you.

Customs asked to investigate more reckless-driving charges against agent

Dorene Kulpa-Friedli lost her husband, U.S. Customs agent Gary Friedli, in a tragic auto accident in March 1998 along the Arizona border. Her husband was killed after the jeep he was in collided with the gas tank of a turning semi-truck.

At the time of the collision, the jeep was traveling some 20 mph over the speed limit on a dirt road.

The driver of the jeep was Customs agent Allan Sperling, who still works for the agency -- which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to the 1998 accident that killed Friedli, Sperling was involved in four other on-duty auto accidents, according to government documents.

Now, allegations have surfaced that Sperling has been involved in at least two additional auto accidents since Friedli's death.

“I do not think that Sperling set out to kill Gary (Friedli) that day; however, his driving actions that day did cause Gary's death,” Kulpa-Friedli asserted in a recent interview conducted by e-mail.

Armed with the latest charges concerning Sperling’s driving record, Kulpa-Friedli is seeking to re-ignite congressional interest in her husband's case.

Kulpa-Friedli contends “family members deserve to know the truth.”

“To have a cover-up or people lie to you just adds to the pain,” she adds.

Mexican whistleblower facing wrath of U.S. justice system

Is Ricardo Cordero Ontiveros a good cop gone bad, or is he the victim of retaliation for exposing bad cops?

That's the issue before a federal judge in San Antonio, Texas, where Cordero finds himself behind bars, denied bond and charged with laundering millions of dollars in illicit drug money.

Cordero, the former head of a high-profile Mexican anti-narcotics squad, also found himself on the wrong side of the law in the mid-1990s after blowing the whistle on corruption within the ranks of Mexican law enforcement.

Cordero, who in 1995 served as the deputy director of Mexico's National Institute to Combat Drugs (INCD), claimed at the time that drug-traffickers had gotten their hooks into Mexican law enforcement on a grand scale. After resigning from his post in the wake of going public with his allegations, Cordero was arrested by Mexican police on bribery and narco-trafficking charges. He was later convicted and spent more than a year in prison before winning his release on an appeal.

Cordero claimed he had been framed for exposing the rampant law-enforcement corruption in Mexico. Mexican officials countered that Cordero went public with his corruption charges only after he learned he was under investigation.

Now Cordero is back in the hot seat, this time on the U.S. side of the border. He was indicted with little fanfare last November on four counts of money laundering and has been sitting in jail in San Antonio ever since.

Hispanic agents confront racism in U.S. Customs

The federal judge hearing a class-action discrimination case filed by a group of Hispanic U.S. Customs agents has handed down a ruling that is a major victory for the agents, according to their attorney, Ron Schmidt.

Customs was seeking to have the agents’ case dismissed upfront -- on summary judgment -- before legal discovery and a trial. The judge's ruling stopped that effort in its tracks.

The class-action lawsuit, which was filed in May 2002 on behalf of some 400 active and former Hispanic special agents, alleges that Customs has engaged in a pattern of discrimination. That discrimination, the lawsuit claims, dates back to the 1970s.

In addition to back-pay and compensatory damages, the Hispanic agents are asking the court to order Customs to cease its “illegal and discriminatory conduct," the lawsuit states.

In its pleadings for summary judgment, Customs claims that the Hispanic agents failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available to them outside of federal court. Customs also argues that the agents failed to meet the legal threshold for demonstrating discrimination.

Red-baiting white paper

Given all the recent media hype over the CIA's lack of good intelligence on Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion of that country, it's easy to backburner the fact that this nation's intelligence agencies also were accused of dropping the ball with respect to the 9/11 terrorists.

Now CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Intelligence Agency top gun Lowell Jacoby are all over the news telling us that, beyond Al Qaeda, we face an even greater threat from as-yet-unknown terrorists groups who are being spurred on in the wake of rising anti-Americanism.

Gee, I wonder why we're ticking so many people off? In any event, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots and predict that because there's a rising tide of rage against the United States, there is likely more fuel being thrown on the fire of terrorism.

But what isn't being asked often enough in the media is what the current administration was focusing on prior to 9/11 in terms of perceived terrorist threats. A little-notice report prepared for the Department of Energy (DOE) some five months prior to 9/11 offers some clues.

It seems, according to that report, that some elements of the Bush administration were concerned about a potential rise in "left wing" terrorism. The title of the report says it all: Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat.

Secret vetting at Customs

Earlier this week, I received a letter -- sent anonymously. It was stuffed with documents, including a memo written by Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). The union represents some 13,000 Customs employees who work for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) -- which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  

The NTEU, which has endorsed Sen. John F. Kerry for president, is currently battling the Bush administration and DHS over proposed workplace rule changes that will severely limit the union's ability to represent workers within the new super department.  

The leaked Kelley memo, which is directed to NTEU chapter presidents, also deals with a workplace-rights issue. The memo, dated Nov. 14, 2003, is the real thing. A spokesman for the union confirmed that fact.  

The memo reveals something quite startling in terms of how the government operates with respect to promoting the right people to the right jobs. Essentially, the memo indicates that since December 1998 Customs has maintained a "secret vetting" policy that requires that background checks be run at the headquarters level on employees who are up for promotion.  

So why is this a big deal?  

One Customs inspector interviewed put it this way: "There's a secret vetting list that the agency has. What that means is they have opened a file on your name, to be used for anything."  


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