A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent has been disciplined after talking to the press concerning the total lack of security on the nation’s southern border.
Ron Zermeno, a Border Patrol union representative working the San Diego sector, was one of the few field agents willing to comment on the recent illegal immigrant surge prior to a federal gag order prohibiting agents from speaking to the media.
In letters obtained by National Review Online, the agency claims Zermeno disclosed to news outlets that the Border Patrol was “understaffed,” and that sending more illegals for processing in Murietta, Cali., would leave “no agents patrolling” the border. He also disclosed general information regarding the number of immigrants sent to different facilities and how many were in quarantine.
Zermeno subsequently received a letter back in July charging that he committed “unauthorized disclosure” of operational information, and that he “failed to follow instructions” when he passed supposed “law enforcement sensitive” information to the media, which the feds claimed compromised their activities.
“Your failure to follow instructions negatively affected the agency,” the proposal posited. “Your actions not only put the agents involved in those operations at risk but also the detainees.”
A follow up letter shows the agency made good on their proposal.
“Your actions constituted a breach of your duty to safeguard sensitive operational information disseminated to law enforcement personnel only,” wrote Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Kathleen Scudder to Zermeno last month. “Therefore, this action is necessary to impress upon you the seriousness of your actions and deter you from such future misconduct.”
Zermeno’s punishment apparently consisted of merely placing a copy of that letter in his “Official Personnel Folder for a period not to exceed two (2) years,” and a warning not to do it again.
A senator who had worked with Zermeno in the past told National Review he saw no problems with the information the agent spoke on.
“We’ve reviewed, and I’ve reviewed his comments, and I don’t think he has released anything that would violate law-enforcement sensitivities,” Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn said. “I can’t see what he released that would have done any harm, but I’m willing to keep an open mind to that. I just don’t see it. I think he’s a good American who’s done the right thing.”
Furthermore, Coburn asserted agents should “have a right to speak with Congress and/or the Inspector General” and that reprimanding such behavior created a “culture of retaliation.” He revealed as much in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in July, in which he wrote:
“I have recently learned that some of these individuals fear retaliation for speaking with my office. This is unacceptable… A culture of retaliation continues to permeate throughout DHS, specifically the Border Patrol, and I ask that you work with me to correct this. Viewpoints and information from individuals should not be thwarted.”
These are “literally the guys with the lantern saying ‘the British are coming,’ right? You want to embrace their criticism to be a better department,” Coburn says, adding that the move was an intimidation tactic. The feds are “almost treating this as a test case where they want to sort of strong-arm, overreact, to make all other people who are thinking of coming forward hesitant.”
Indeed, the slap-on-the-wrist reprimand’s lack of teeth suggests the agency is more interested in sending a message to potential future whistleblowers, and not so concerned with the “sensitive” intel Zermeno supposedly revealed.
The federal government’s “culture of retaliation” apparently extends to members of the press as well.
Last July, Infowars reporter Kit Daniels received a certified letter from the US Defense Department after reporting from the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The letter absurdly claimed Daniels had engaged in “unauthorized photography and broadcast” which was somehow “detrimental” to the “safety and security of the installation,” despite that Daniels was merely carrying out his role as an inquisitive journalist and reporting in the public’s best interest on how taxpayer monies were being used to house the influx.
News of the agent’s punishment comes on the heels of a Judicial Watch report revealing an imminent threat posed to the U.S. by the terror group ISIS emanating from Ciudad Juarez, which sources warned was “coming very soon.”