Rep. Poe chides Homeland official
By Jerry Seper
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
March 21, 2007
A Texas congressman who has challenged the prosecution of two U.S. Border Patrol agents who shot a drug-smuggling suspect yesterday described as "appalling" efforts by a Homeland Security official to defend misstatements his office made to a House subcommittee about the agents.
Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, said Homeland Security Inspector General Richard L. Skinner was defending staffers who not only provided inaccurate information in saying the agents "wanted to shoot Mexicans," but claimed they had documents to prove their assertions -- which were promised but never delivered.
"Six months after a meeting with members of Congress and the staff of the Office of Inspector General of Homeland Security ... Richard Skinner is now saying his staff did not lie to members of Congress, but that his staff was just mistaken about the facts when it briefed Congress," Mr. Poe said.
"Mr. Skinner claims that at the time, his office did not know the information was false, but after learning that it was, no attempt was made on their behalf to inform us until he was questioned about it under oath," Mr. Poe said. Mr. Skinner "would do well to simply tell the truth and give accurate information, in public and private, rather than use slick Madison Avenue press releases to justify their misstatements."
Mr. Poe's comments were in response to a statement Monday by Mr. Skinner, who said his staffers did not lie when they told Republican congressmen falsely during a briefing that Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean "were out to shoot Mexicans."
Mr. Skinner, in a two-page statement, said his investigators later learned the accusation was "inaccurate" and noted that it was not included in a final report on the case by his office. He described comments by his staffers to the congressmen that the agents wanted to "shoot Mexicans" as misstatements.
He also blamed those who attended the briefing, including Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, who then served as chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on investigations and had sought the hearing, for leaking the inaccurate accusation to the press, saying the congressmen "understood" the information was not to be made public.
"The only reason the statement that Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean allegedly said they wanted to shoot a Mexican has become public is because ... others have publicized that inaccurate information and reported it to the media," Mr. Skinner said.
But Mr. Poe said that "at no time" during the briefing was he told the information was confidential and he described as "flat-out appalling" efforts by Mr. Skinner to now imply that since it was not intended for the public, that "justifies lying to members of Congress."
Mr. Poe also noted that while Mr. Skinner said his office did not know statements that the agents wanted to "shoot Mexicans" were false at the time of the Sept. 26 briefing, he made no attempt to correct the record "until he was questioned about it under oath" at a hearing in February.
Ramos, 37, and Compean, 28, were convicted on charges of causing serious bodily injury, assault with a deadly weapon, discharge of a firearm in a crime of violence and a civil rights violation in their attempted arrest of Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila, a Mexican national, who fled into Mexico after abandoning a van containing 743 pounds of marijuana.
Their 11- and 12-year prison sentences, respectively, have drawn widespread criticism, including from some members of Congress -- 90 of whom are co-sponsors of a bill by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, calling for a congressional pardon.