Thursday, August 8, 2019

JOUR107.1001--Wm Barr Secret 1989 "Vigilante" Memo--WILL MEXICO ABDUCT EL PASO SUSPECT?

J. L'Angelle
Univ of Nevada, Reno
Fall 2019

Just How Far Will Mexico Go to Get the El Paso Shooter?

     (Cantina El Norte)--Today it's being reported that Attorney General William P. Barr is suggesting that American citizens get a certain amount of satisfaction from "vigilante justice" as portrayed in the movies by Clint Eastwood in "Dirty Harry" and reported on the Yahoo newsapp by David Knowles;
     " 'I believe a sense of justice is hardwired into human beings,' Barr said in an interview on Crime Story podcast. 'Don’t ask me why, but it is there and it’s satisfying to see justice done.'
Barr speculated that films like 'Dirty Harry' (1971), which starred Clint Eastwood as a detective who takes the law into his own hands, resonated with the American public’s impatience with the courts." (Knowles)
 Don't ask him why, especially a congressional committee, because if they did, it might be uncovered that Barr was instrumental way back in 1989 of writing legal counsel for the DOJ regarding the legitimacy of kidnapping foreign officials-fugitives in what many characterized at the time as "vigilante" tactics.
     One report by Anthony Lewis in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1992 uncovered the trail of the vigilante in Justice;
     "Nothing the Supreme Court has done lately has aroused such widespread outrage, here and abroad, as its decision that our government had the right to kidnap a Mexican suspect and bring him here for trial. Governments from Switzerland to Argentina protested. The Economist of London, a pro-American paper, said the decision made America 'a sponsor of vigilante values.' " (Lewis)
No surprise as to where the "vigilante" ruling came from out of the DOJ that the court agreed to;
     " 1989, the Bush administration's assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, William P. Barr, wrote a new opinion saying the FBI could legally seize suspects in foreign countries. Barr is now attorney general." (Lewis)

     The particular case in question was related to what David J. Scheffer referred to in the Hartford Courant as the "Lone Rangers of the DEA" in their abduction of Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain for his part in the murder of the US drug enforcement agent Enrique Camarena in 1990. (Chris Kraul, LA Times);

     "If the rule of law was a pillar of Bush's 'new world order,' it is no more. Attorney General William P. Barr, who in 1989 wrote the secret legal opinions that set the stage for Machain's abduction and for the use of U.S. armed forces to invade Panama and seize Gen. Manuel Noriega, can now sponsor such vigilante tactics without fear of judicial scrutiny."  (Scheffer, Hartford Courant)
     That ruling stemmed from a reversal in a Carter administration that Barr overrode allowing the kidnapping of international fugitives outside of US jurisdiction without consent from the foreign government.
     Many of the journalists of the day did in fact call it nothing short of "vigilante" justice. Ronald J. Ostrow in the Los Angeles Times;

      "In a June 21 legal opinion requested by Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh, Assistant Attorney General William P. Barr reversed a ruling dating from the Carter administration that had denied the FBI authority to take unilateral action overseas. The Carter ruling warned that federal agents using such tac-tics could face kidnapping charges abroad." (Ostrow, Hartford Courant via LA Times)
Barr refused to discuss the ruling to the press. The most interesting part isn't his reversal but the original Carter doc that halted the FBI from nabbing elusive fugitive financier Robert L. Vesco from the Bahamas.  The financier was later arrested in Cuba where he died in 2007 (The Guardian)
     So it's no wonder the frustration AG currently has over prosecution thwarted by foreign governments by refusing extradition of expats and lamenting for the days that he could write orders to pick them up wherever they were. No wonder also that his penchant for promoting the "vigilante" mentality in the public is alive and well, even though extremely questionable coming from a person of Barr's stature. But it brings into focus yet an even darker prospect.
     With the massacre of citizens in El Paso last week, Mexico has demanded the suspect to be extradited as Daniel Trotta reports in Reuters;

     "EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - Mexico will investigate the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people, including eight Mexican citizens, as an act of terrorism and may request the suspected shooter be extradited to Mexico for trial, the country’s foreign minister said on Monday." (Trotta)
Is that same sense of "vigilante" justice currently affecting decisions in the Mexican government? Forget extradition, if there's a clever legal opinion writer in the Mexican Department of Justice, the papers will be waived in favor of outright kidnapping of the alleged killer, possibly in an underground "El Chapo style" raid.

Works Cited
Knowles, D.,
Lewis, A., St. Louis Post-Dispatch 02 July 1992, Page 27
Kraul, C.,
Scheffer, DJ, Hartford Courant, 25 June 1992, Page 36)
Ostrow, RJ, Hartford Courant, 13 October 1989, Page 119.
Vesco Obit,
Trotta, D.,
Kidnap image,