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Cryo Chamber

Losing The Drug War

Dan Wirth and Keith Graves spent significant portions of their careers working on the Arizona-Mexico border. They know these troubled lands inside and out. Both have reputations as straight-shooters, and both retired last December.

Now able to speak freely, they agreed to talk to the Tucson Weekly with only one topic off-limits—the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Peck Canyon on Dec. 14, 2010. At his retirement, Graves promised the Border Patrol he wouldn’t discuss what he knows about the case.

Graves was the Nogales district ranger for the Coronado National Forest from 1998 to 2010. When he left that post, he was named a liaison between the Forest Service and the Secure Border Initiative, focusing on strategies for dealing with the dramatic impact that illegal crossings were having on the forest, from fires to trash to illegal trails.

Wirth was a senior special agent for the Department of Interior. He coordinated the department’s law-enforcement activities across the Southwest, giving frequent briefings to the secretary of the interior, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Defense, the White House Homeland Security Council and members of Congress.

We met at a quiet Mexican restaurant in Barrio Hollywood, on Tucson’s westside. The discussion began with a dust-up last May, when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared before the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Sen. John McCain asked her about cartel scouts, or spotters—armed men who sit on mountaintops in Arizona to guide loads around law enforcement.

The senator wanted to know how Napolitano could call the border secure when there are 100 to 200 cartel spotters working in our state. Napolitano disputed his assertion, saying she asked the Border Patrol, “Where are the spotters that I keep hearing about?” She said the agency told her there are a couple of hundred mountaintops from which a spotter could work, “But there are not, sitting there, 200 drug-spotters.”

The truth is that McCain greatly understated the problem.-[source]

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