"House of Death" Update


Glenn Greenwald has more on the horrifying story I posted yesterday involving a torture and murder house in Mexico. The place was run by the Juarez cartel, and U.S. officials allowed it to continue to operate instead of giving up their informant (who, incidentally, participated in the killing).  When one scrupulous DEA agent protested the abhorrent misplacement of priorities in a letter, he was forced to resign.

As if the story itself weren't awful enough, Greenwald finds that the reporter who originally broke the story for the Narco News website was then intimidated by federal agents.  Bill Conroy is the reporter. He works for the San Antonio Business Journal, and freelances at Narco News.

According to Conroy's lawyer, Ron Tonkin, a former assistant U.S. attorney specializing in drug cases, around 6 p.m. on May 23, a man and woman identifying themselves as internal affairs agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement visited Conroy's home. Conroy was still at work and his wife answered the door. At the behest of Conroy's wife, Agent Carlos Salazar gave her a phone number for Conroy to call him, then he and the unidentified agent left.

After receiving a call at work from his wife, Conroy phoned the number Salazar provided and left a voicemail, Tonkin said.

The Current called Salazar's number several times over the course of four days, but no one answered, nor was there voicemail.

Salazar didn't call Conroy back, but the next day, he and a male agent showed up at the Business Journal. Conroy escorted them to a conference room, where Salazar reportedly said, "I want to know your source" of a leaked, yet unclassified DHS memo that had been the centerpiece of one of Conroy's Narco News stories. Tonkin said Conroy refused to give up his source and told Salazar that if they planned on continuing to question him, he would record the conversation.

The agents left the conference room, reportedly asking Conroy, "Does your boss know you write for Narcosphere?"

The agents then took Conroy's boss into a conference room, where, according to Tonkin, he told them Conroy had done the work on his own time for another publication and there was nothing he could do for them.

Greenwald is calling for a Congressional investigation.  I think that's appropriate.  Not only do you have federal government agencies complicit in the murder of a U.S. citizen (and about a dozen Mexican citizens), you have ensuing cover-ups, intimidation, forced resignations, and bureaucratic turf wars.  This goes fairly high up the chain of command at the Justice Department, far enough that Congressional oversight seems not only appropriate, but the only type of investigation detached enough to investigate appropriately.


NEXT: Evidence, Schmevidence, Says the Ralph Nader of the Tobacco Industry

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  1. I would like to see some of the U S federal agents involved in this “investigation” extradited to Mexico and tried as accomplices to murder. But I’m not holding my breath.

  2. One small nit – they are not accomplices. They are accessories after the fact.

  3. From memory, I thought the Observer article said Padilla was a legal U.S. resident but not a citizen. Not that I’m saying this reduces ICE’s culpability in any way, but shouldn’t it be “13 Mexican citizens”?

  4. Is there some reason this post is in Helvetica, while the rest are in Times New Roman?

    p.s. if the font must be changed, change the TNR.

  5. Agreed, the Arial/Helvetica typeface is much easier on the eyes.

  6. scrupulous DEA agent

    Now there’s an oxymoron.

    Having said that, I applaud the guy’s integrity in spite of all the other, evil shit I’m sure he did during his tenure.

    I would like to see some of the U S federal agents involved in this “investigation” extradited to Mexico and tried as accomplices to murder.

    I’d settle for seeing them hanged in the streets, but your solution would work too.
    Unfortunately, no one gives a fuck anymore about the excesses of the government (well, except for us), so nothing will become of this.

  7. This doesn’t involve professional sports, steroids, or video games. It will not make major headlines, I expect Congress to do nothing.

  8. I wonder if Whitey Bulger worked at this house. The sad fact is that a lot of federal agents and prosecutors need to go to jail. There is a culture of arogance and lack of accountability throughout all of federal law enforcment. Talk to a criminal defense attorney in any part of the country and ask them who is more unreasonable, sleazy and difficult to deal with; state DAs or U.S. attorneys. They will always tell you U.S. attorneys. The only way this kind of crap is going to stop is a lot of firings and a few of them doing a perp walk on their way to club fed.

  9. one scrupulous DEA agent


    Well, I see I’ve been beaten to the punch but I’m saying it anyway.

  10. Which organizations, if any, act as clearinghouses specifically for stories about corruption and abuse, and denial of rights and liberties by the drug war establishment?

    Is H&R the best place to keep tabs on this international slide towards tyranny and corruption?

  11. How can a story like this be surprising after Waco, not to mention the many abuses of civil rights and common decency by our guys, in the name of the apparently interminable, decades long folly of the Drug War itself? We aren’t citizens, we are subjects. The government isn’t us, it stands apart from us, calculating “acceptable losses” as part of the price of doing political business.

    How many more stories such as this do we need to boil American outrage to the whistling point?

    End the Drug War, already. We have been fighting the Drug War longer than the Vietnam and both Gulf Wars combined! If we can admit that we are losing in Iraq (I saw it on the Today show this morning, so it MUST be true :-), then surely we can admit the truth of an even more massive and obvious failure.

    Of course, if the Dems won’t get us out of Iraq anytime soon, as many are beginning to suspect, they’re not likely to wind down that other war, either. What must the people do to lead on this issue AND MAKE PROGRESS?

  12. having watched a documentary last night on Waco, which included the congressional “investigation”, I’m going to predict that it won’t make any difference. no one will be held accountable.

  13. Bio, I ain’t taking your action. No bet.

    I’m kicking myself for being shocked. But still, even as cynical as I am about the DEA I find this shocking.

  14. If true, this ought to be a scandal on par with Abu Ghraib.

    In terms of media outrage and blanket coverage on a par with the coverage afforded Britney’s lack of skivvies, yes.

    In terms of horror? The difference is orders of magnitude approaching light years. On every meaningful level.

  15. I just emailed my Senators and Congressman asking them to take action. We’ll see how Durbin, Obama, and Davis do. Last time I wrote Washington was about the Defense of Marriage Act. Durbin and Fitzgerald were wusses. Davis was a stand-up guy.

  16. One bad part of this story is that it suggests we should be sorry for a DEA agent. When some other agency (what used to be the Customs dept.) makes the DEA look good, even though the DEA hasn’t changed much, that’s some pretty fucked up shit. (BTW, fuck you, FCC.) What’s next? Apologetics for Pol Pot?

  17. I just emailed my Senators and Congressman asking them to take action. We’ll see how Durbin, Obama, and Davis do. Last time I wrote Washington was about the Defense of Marriage Act. Durbin and Fitzgerald were wusses. Davis was a stand-up guy.

    A fellow Illinoisian. Nice to see you.

    Off topic here, but…

    Have you noticed on the toll roads when you go through the booth it says “brought to you by Govoner Rod Blogojavich (sp?)”. Like he’s freaking Saddam Hussein or something. Public toll roads are not the place for a governor to try to start a cult of personality.

    Then when I flew home for Thanksgiving in the airport I saw “Richard Daley welcomes you”.

    Am I the only one disturbed by this (or that even noticed)?

  18. In terms of horror? The difference is orders of magnitude approaching light years. On every meaningful level.

    Are you referring to Britney’s wardrobe malfunction or Abu Ghraib? I’m having a hard time deciding which of those is more horrific.

  19. Crime, Britney’s naughty parts, of course.

    Speaking of Britney and her entourage; I was kind of hoping Kerry would post something about this and write a little funny something. It’s off topic but worth a click.

  20. Grand Chalupa,

    I am bothered that they spend our money on signs with their names on them, but “disturbed” is a little too strong a word. I have come to expect it from these guys.

    It does make me think of the pharaohs. Of course, even the pharaohs’ names were sometimes wiped off their buildings by their successors.

  21. “If true, this ought to be a scandal on par with Abu Ghraib.”

    Only if the media could figure out a way to pin the whole thing on Bush. Since this is an endemic problem going back through both Democratic and Republican administrations, I doubt the media will have much interest. Also, there are go sexy S&M pictures. One side note on Abu Gharib. The really horendous cases of prisinor abuse, where interrogators literally beat innocent detainees to death and were later given slaps on the wrists by military juries, happened in Afghanistan. Yet, few people not involved in the cases know about them, despite them being in the public record. Those cases of course, didn’t have any sexy pictures and didn’t involve a war the elite media objected to, so they were not reported.

  22. According to this story, linked today at Narco News Bulletin, Henry Waxman intends to investigate the “House of Death” scandal:

    Conroy, who claims the Attorney General knew about payments of funds to death squad operators in Mexico that resulted in at least a dozen murders, has been asking for a congressional investigation into the matter.

    His work has apparently caught the attention of Henry Waxman’s office in Los Angeles, who is soon to take over as head of the Government Reform Committee, and is not too keen on secrecy within the Bush administration.

    The committee is gearing up for public hearings after the new majority Democrats take office on a wide range of topics including the War in Iraq, the War on Drugs, government spending and government contracting. Prior efforts to bring this matter before Congressional leaders had failed.

  23. What’s up with the repeated post? Are the new squirrels already kicking over?

  24. MarkV — check out The Drug War Chronicle — a weekly e-mailed newsletter about the drug war from a reform perspective that does a lot of stories on the corruption of law enforcement — its well written and not partisan:


    narconews as well but they tend to focus on south of the broder and are enamoured with Chavez and Morales and the Zapatistas — but they do get good stories now and then.

  25. I clicked the link to the original story and to my good fortune, the big-titted holiday lady covered it up.

  26. Mona,

    Which AG? Ashcroft or Gonzalez? My guess is Gonzalez knew and was too incompetant to do anything about it. Say what you want about Ashcroft, but he at least is a smart guy. Gonzalez on the other hand is the and example “well he is a minority and doesn’t slobber on himself (too much)” theory of political appointments.

  27. John — I dunno. That story was not the most well-written and hard-sourced I’ve encountered, but it *was* linked at Narco News, which I’ve found reliable. I sure hope it is definite that Waxman is investigating, but I would want more firm confirmation than that one article.

    Anyway, I know there are those who are trying to pin this all down, and this outrageous scandal will be growing I’m sure.

  28. Thanks, spur.

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