Senator Mark Udall Seeks Review of Patriot Act Amid Surveillance Report—(new Church Committee in the making?)

Senator seeks review of Patriot Act amid surveillance report

Reuters

U.S. Senator Mark Udall speaks during a memorial service marking the anniversary of the Tuscon shooting, at the University of Arizona campus January 8, 2012. REUTERS/Laura Segall

U.S. Senator Mark Udall speaks during a memorial service marking the anniversary of the Tuscon shooting, at the University of Arizona campus January 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Laura Segall

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON

(Reuters) – A Democratic senator called on Sunday for a review of the Patriot Act, the post-September 11, 2001, law that gave U.S. intelligence agencies broader powers of data surveillance, after disclosures the government has been collecting massive amounts of data on phone and Internet activities.

Senator Mark Udall, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said he thought another look at the law was warranted as reports of the data collection stirred a debate over privacy rights in the United States.

“I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security (Agency) is collecting,” Udall told the ABC program “This Week.”

Udall said there must be a balance between protecting the country against terrorist attacks and respecting Americans’ constitutional rights, including the Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure.

“It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here. That is what I’m aiming for. Let’s have the debate, let’s be transparent, let’s open this up,” he said. “I don’t think the American public knows the extent or knew the extent to which they were being surveilled and their data was being collected.”

The Guardian reported last week that the super-secret National Security Agency has been mining phone records from millions of American customers of a subsidiary of Verizon Communications.

The Washington Post revealed a separate program, code-named Prism, that gives federal authorities access to data from companies including Google Inc., Apple Inc and Facebook Inc on emails, photos and other files.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky told “Fox News Sunday” he would consider a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the phone surveillance program.

“They are looking at a billion phone calls a day from what I read in the press and that doesn’t sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy, it sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy,” Paul said.

But two senior lawmakers defended the Obama administration’s phone and Internet surveillance programs, saying they have helped to prevent attacks on the United States and have been subjected to strict reviews.

“These programs are within the law,” said Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told “This Week.”

“Part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe,” added Feinstein. “Human intelligence isn’t going to do it.”

Republican Mike Rogers, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, agreed with Feinstein that the programs were important for national security.

“One of the things that we’re charged with is keeping America safe and keeping our civil liberties and privacy intact. I think we have done both in this particular case,” he said.

Republican Senator John McCain told CNN he believed the surveillance programs were justified because threats to the United States from abroad have been “growing, not diminishing.”

“I do believe that if this was September 12th, 2001, we might not be having the argument that we are having today,” McCain said.

But the Arizona senator said it made sense for Congress to review the programs. “I think it’s entirely appropriate that we have congressional review, that we have executive review. And we take the case to the American people to some degree as so what we are doing,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Paul Simao and David Morgan; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Syria’s Back Door—Massive War Games Get Underway In Jordan

Major military exercises under way in Jordan

News Asia

Jordan on Sunday announced the start of military exercises involving more than 8,000 soldiers and observers from 19 different countries, but insisted the manoeuvres were unrelated to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

AMMAN: Jordan on Sunday announced the start of military exercises involving more than 8,000 soldiers and observers from 19 different countries, but insisted the manoeuvres were unrelated to the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

Around 4,500 US troops and 3,000 Jordanian soldiers are taking part in the air, land and sea “Eager Lion 2013” exercise, which lasts until June 20.

“Eager Lion this year will focus on irregular warfare, like combatting terrorism and insurgency,” Major General Awni el-Edwan, the Jordan Armed Forces’ operations chief of staff, told reporters.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with Major General Robert G. Catalanotti of the US Army Central Command.

“The exercises have nothing to do with any regional developments around Jordan,” Edwan said, referring to the conflict in Syria.

The United States has said it was sending a Patriot missile battery and F-16 fighters to Jordan for Eager Lion, and may keep them there to counter the threat posed by the Syrian civil war.

“Patriot missiles and F-16 fighters are taking part in the drill in a pure military context. Keeping them in Jordan needs a political decision that we, military people, do not interfere in,” Edwan said, without elaborating.

He added that the exercises will take place in Jordan’s central and southern regions and that the missiles will be deployed “in the right place”.

US officials have declined to say how many F-16s would be taking part in the joint exercise or how many might stay on afterwards.

The United States backed a similar move earlier this year in Turkey, with the NATO alliance deploying Patriot missile batteries along Turkey’s volatile border with Syria.

During Eager Lion, troops from Britain, Bahrain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen will stage battlefield, logistics and humanitarian exercises.

The Pentagon had already sent about 200 troops to Jordan to help it prepare for possible military action in Syria, including scenarios to secure the regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles.

Jordan is a major beneficiary of US military and economic aid, with Washington granting US$2.4 billion (1.85 billion euros) over the past five years, according to official figures.

The war games are being staged with Jordan currently hosting around 500,000 refugees who have fled the civil war in Syria.

Where Is the Congressional Investigation of the NSA for Violating Our Constitutional Right To Privacy?

 

Criminal probe sought over US intelligence leaks

News Asia

The top US intelligence chief is seeking a criminal probe into bombshell leaks of government monitoring of Internet users and phone records, amid a furor over the secret programs’ threat to privacy.

WASHINGTON: The top US intelligence chief is seeking a criminal probe into bombshell leaks of government monitoring of Internet users and phone records, amid a furore over the secret programs’ threat to privacy.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed on Saturday that US spy agencies use the PRISM program to gather data trails left by targeted foreign citizens using the Internet outside the United States.

But in an interview with NBC News, portions of which aired Sunday, he called the disclosures “literally gut-wrenching” and said they had caused “huge, grave damage” to US intelligence capabilities.

“The NSA has filed a crimes report on this already,” Clapper told NBC, referring to the leaks to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

He said he was “profoundly offended” that a disgruntled intelligence officer was a source for the leak to the Post. “This is someone who for whatever reason has chosen to violate a sacred trust for this country,” he said.

“And, so, I hope we’re able to track down whoever’s doing this, because it is extremely damaging to, and it affects the safety and security of this country.”

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who brought to light the PRISM program and a separate program that scoops up US phone records, said the public had a right to know and openly debate what the government was doing.

“Every time there’s a whistleblower, someone who exposes government wrongdoing, the tactic is to demonize them as a traitor,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“What they were seeing being done in secret, inside the United States government, is so alarming they simply want one thing. And that is, they want the American people to learn about this massive spying apparatus and what the capabilities are, so we can have an open, honest debate.”

Clapper said he understood public concerns about the invasion of privacy and threats to civil liberties, but that “a lot of what people are seeing and reading in the media is a lot of hyperbole.”

The intelligence chief has declassified some details of the PRISM program in the face of a storm of controversy over suggestions that the government had backdoor access to the servers of Internet giants like Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

“PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program,” he said.

“It is an internal government computer system to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorised collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision.”

Internet service providers denied they had given the government unfettered access to customer data, insisting they did so only when compelled by law.

Under PRISM, which has been running for six years, the US National Security Agency can issue directives to Internet firms demanding access to emails, online chats, pictures, files, videos and more uploaded by foreign users.

But Clapper’s statement described a system whereby the government must apply to a secret US court for permission to target individuals or entities, then issue a request to the service provider.

“The government cannot target anyone under the court-approved procedures… unless there is an appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition” to prevent threats like terror, cybercrime or nuclear proliferation, Clapper said.

He admitted that data on US citizens might be “incidentally intercepted” in the course of targeting a foreign national, but said this would not normally be shared within the intelligence community unless it confirmed a threat.

PRISM was revealed shortly after The Guardian uncovered another intelligence program under which the NSA hoovered up the telephone records of millions of US citizens.

Representative Mike Rogers, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said the government began storing the phone records after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 upon learning that the phone companies routinely destroyed them.

Access to the records involves a “very strict court-order approval process. It has to be a foreign person believed to be on a foreign land,” he told “This Week.”

Senator Diane Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she was prepared to hold public hearings, but added: “Here’s the rub, the instances where this has produced good – has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks, is all classified.”

Obama has defended the phone and Internet data trawls, saying America was “going to have to make some choices between balancing privacy and security to protect against terror.

But civil liberties and privacy groups have raised alarm at both programs, which some have branded “Orwellian” and possibly unconstitutional.

Syrian Terrorists Shoot Boy In Mouth To Demonstrate Their “Shariah” To His Mother

Syrian Islamists execute youth: NGO

news-com-au

ISLAMIST rebels fighting the Syrian regime have shot dead a 15-year-old youth in front of his parents and siblings after accusing him of blasphemy, a monitoring group says.

“An unidentified Islamist rebel group shot dead a 15-year-old child who worked as a coffee seller in (the northern city of Aleppo), after they accused him of blasphemy,” said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Abdel Rahman said the rebel group likely comprised foreign jihadists. “They spoke classical Arabic, not Syrian dialect,” he told AFP.

“They shot the boy twice – once in the mouth, another in his neck – in front of his mother, his father and his siblings,” he added.

The Observatory condemned the execution as “criminal and a gift to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“This kind of criminality is exactly what makes people in Syria fear the fall of the regime,” Abdel Rahman said.

The Britain-based monitoring group, which relies on a broad network of activists, doctors and lawyers in Syria for its reports, demanded the killers’ arrest.

“We are working on identifying their names,” said Abdel Rahman.

Large swathes of Aleppo city have since last year fallen into rebel hands.

Activists have frequently lashed out against rebel groups which have taken advantage of the security vacuum in Aleppo to commit rights abuses.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/world/syrian-islamists-execute-youth-ngo/story-e6frfkui-1226661059170#ixzz2Vk6wVlp8

Obama’s Failures in Afghanistan

Obama’s Failures in Afghanistan

reason

The Obama Administration has continuously deceived us about how bad the war in Afghanistan is going.

In his latest major address on foreign policy, President Obama said this:

So after I took office … we pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces.…

In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country’s security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counterterrorism force, which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe haven to launch attacks against us or our allies.…

In the Afghan war theater, we must — and will — continue to support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014.…

The Afghan war is coming to an end.

If this and the usual sycophantic news reporting is all you’ve heard lately about the war in Afghanistan, you might think things are going well, that “America’s forces are winning.”

They are not. I trust it will be no shock to say this, but people in government lie, including presidents of the United States. Even presidents proclaimed to be different from anyone else who has ever run for that office.

Afghanistan is a hellhole. Writes Conn Hallinan at Foreign Policy in Focus,

Only U.S. Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford, head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) thinks the war on the Taliban is being won, and that the Afghan Army is “steadily gaining in confidence, competence, and commitment.”Attacks by the Taliban are up 47 percent over last year, and the casualty rate for Afghan soldiers and police has increased 40 percent. The yearly desertion rate of the Afghan Army is between 27 percent and 30 percent.

Things have gotten so bad, Hallinan writes, that gunman in Pakistan burned a NATO convoy taking equipment out of Afghanistan. He comments,

There is nothing that better sums up the utter failure of America’s longest war than international forces getting ambushed as they try to get the hell out of the country. And yet the April 1 debacle in Baluchistan was in many ways a metaphor for a looming crisis that NATO and the United States seem totally unprepared for: with the clock ticking down on removing most combat troops by 2014, there are no official negotiations going on, nor does there seem to be any strategy for how to bring them about.

But what about the legendary Obama surge of 2009? When George W. Bush left the White House, there were 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Shortly after taking office, Obama sent about 30,000 more. As he said at the time, “The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qa’ida supports the insurgency and threatens America from its safe haven along the Pakistani border.” Then in November 2009 he announced that he would send around 30,000 more, bringing the total, the New York Times reported, to about 100,000. “There is no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum,” Obama said. The administration has always been a bit vague about the numbers, and the term “surge” has only been applied to the second deployment. In fact, Obama roughly tripled the U.S. troop strength, before later reducing it by a third. At this point, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is almost double the number present when Bush left office.

And what has been the result? Hallinan writes,

When the Obama administration sent an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan in 2009 as part of the “surge,” the goal was to secure the country’s southern provinces, suppress opium cultivation, and force the Taliban to give up on the war. Not only did the surge fail to impress the Taliban and its allies, it never stabilized the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Both are once again under the sway of the insurgency, and opium production has soared. What the surge did manage was to spread the insurgency into formerly secure areas in the north and west.

With the exception of the current U.S. commander in Afghanistan, virtually everyone has concluded that the war has been a disaster for all involved.

(This is not the first time we’ve heard this. Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis made a detailed report to that effect after spending 2011 in Afghanistan. “What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground,” Davis wrote.)

The facts don’t stop Obama from giving the same rosy reports while promising to have the troops out by the end of next year. NATO has a withdrawal treaty with the government of President Hamid Karzai (the same one who proudly acknowledges accepting buckets of cash from the CIA), but that doesn’t mean the U.S. government will have zero presence come 2015. Hallinan writes that “several thousand U.S. Special Forces, military trainers, CIA personnel, and aircraft will remain on nine bases until 2024.”

To give you an idea of how well things are going, a May 16 suicide bomb in the capital killed six Americans and 16 Afghans. As though that were not enough of a commentary on conditions there, the political wing of the group that claimed responsibility for the bombing, Hezb-i-Islami, “is a major player in the Karzai government, with its members holding down the posts of education minister and advisor to the president.”

With allies like that.… And let’s not get started on “insider attacks,” in which Afghan troops and police kill the American and NATO troops who train them.

But Americans believe all is well and peace will prevail come 2015. Not so fast, Hallinan writes.

In theory, ISAF combat troops will exit Afghanistan in 2014 and turn the war over to the Afghan Army and police, organizations that have yet to show they can take on the insurgency. One of the Army’s crack units was recently overrun in eastern Afghanistan. Given the fragility of the Afghan government and its army, one would think that the White House would be putting on a full court press to get talks going, but instead it is following a strategy that has demonstrably failed in the past.…

Part of the problem is that the call for talks is so heavily laden with caveats and restrictions — among them that the Taliban must accept the 2004 constitution and renounce violence and “terrorism” — that it derails any possibility of real negotiations.

Obama apparently is looking for a way to bring home most of the troops without the place collapsing in chaos, which would be bad for his legacy. But, as Hallinan asks, “If the United States couldn’t smother the insurgency during the surge, how can it do so now with fewer troops?”

The lesson? Fish swim, birds fly, and people who run governments lie. They will say anything to achieve their political objectives. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.

One trusts them at one’s peril.

This article originally appeared at The Future of Freedom Foundation

 

Sheldon Richman is vice president of the Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of Future of Freedom, FFF’s monthly publication.

USAF Surgeon General Sounds Alarm About Transmission of Deadly Saudi Coronavirus from Saudi Bases

[Another wonderful bi-product of America’s takeover of the Middle East.]

Air Force Surgeon General warns of deadly virus from Middle East

army times

A fond farewell

Airmen from Joint Base San Antonio leave for deployment to Kuwait, Qatar and additional locations in Southwest Asia in this 2011 photo. Air Force major commands have been warned to watch for symptoms of a new deadly virus spreading from the Middle East. (Robbin Cresswell / Air Force)

A deadly virus that has begun to creep from the Middle East into Europe has gotten the attention of the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General.

The virus, first identified in September by the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Health Organization, is called the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Of the 54 laboratory-confirmed cases through June 4, there have been 30 deaths, with 39 of the cases and 24 deaths coming from Saudi Arabia.

“The Air Force Public Health Branch is aware of the disease while working with the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, Biosurveillance Division to monitor the situation closely,” Jonathon Stock, a spokesman for the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General, said May 6. “Our major command health officers have been notified earlier this week and encouraged to follow updates on the situation.”

He added there are no reported cases among Department of Defense employees or the military.

The virus most recently surfaced in Italy, increasing concerns about its spread from the Middle East. In those cases, a 2-year-old girl and a 42-year-old woman were listed in stable condition June 3, after being exposed to a man who developed symptoms after traveling in Jordan.

So, with a better than 50 percent death rate, here’s five airmen should know aobut MERS-CoV:

How does it develop?

Coronaviruses include everything from the common cold to the severe acute respiratory syndrome that in 2003 became a global epidemic. This new virus does not come from the same coronavirus that caused SARS. The virus may begin as a cold, but can spiral downward into what the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta calls a severe acute respiratory infection, or SARI. There is about a 10- to 12-day incubation period, so anyone who has traveled to the Middle East prior to showing symptoms should be tested for MERS-CoV, the CDC advises.

The symptoms

It may start off as a cold, but develop a cough, fever of 100.4 or higher and mimic pneumonialike symptoms, such as respiratory distress and even kidney failure. Those who already suffer from either diabetes, renal failure or coronary artery disease may be more susceptible. Those who are autoimmune-compromised also may have additional symptoms, such as diarrhea.

How it’s treated

The best treatment is early detection. At this time, there are no vaccines available to target the MERS-CoV virus. But the CDC indicated intravenous fluids, oxygen and antibiotics if a secondary infection is noted, have kept the death rates down with the latest cases.

Precautionary measures

Both WHO and CDC offer the typical suggestions on how to prevent picking up any illness, including MERS-CoV, while traveling. Wash hands often with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. If someone appears sick, stay away. If you develop symptoms, seek treatment.

Should travel to the Middle East be canceled?

No. Neither WHO nor the CDC have issued warnings not to travel to the Middle East based on this outbreak. They do suggest making sure vaccinations and immunizations are up to date at least four weeks before traveling to the Middle East. For more information, visit the CDC’s “Travelers’ Health” website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

Dallas/Ft. Worth Now Logistics Center for Several Mexican Drug Cartels

DFW now a ‘command and control’ center for Mexican cartels

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/06/08/4921705/dfw-is-now-a-command-and-control.html#storylink=cpy

The slaying in Southlake Town Square of a Mexican attorney with reputed ties to drug cartels was a brazen and well-coordinated assassination that illustrates the increasingly long and lethal reach of the brutal criminal organizations, security experts say.

The flamboyant public hit was unusual because Mexican cartels try to stay off the radar on this side of the border.

But it underlines an ominous trend: Dallas-Fort Worth has become a key “command and control” center for moving drugs and people across the country, top state and federal law enforcement officials confirm.

DFW is more than 400 miles from the Mexico border, but its central location and vast network of interstates and rail lines make it a vital distribution point for drugs.

“When you have these kinds of incidents in your nicer communities, it really resonates and brings home the cartels’ reach,” said Fred Burton, a security analyst with Austin-based Stratfor Global Intelligence who monitors the cartels, their areas of influence and their drug routes.

“There’s a perception that these guys don’t do that kind of stuff here, but in reality they do. They are selective, but if they do want to kill somebody, they’ve been successful in doing it, as evidenced by what happened in Southlake,” he said.

The cartels’ tentacles reach everywhere, Burton said.

“If you are in a large city in America, in all likelihood there is a cartel presence there. No city is untouched anymore,” said Burton, a former counterterrorism agent with the State Department from 1985 to 1999.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Mexican cartels “constitute the greatest organized-crime threat” to the state.

Six of the eight major cartels operate in Texas: Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa Cartel, the Beltran Leyva Organization, La Familia Michoacana and the Juarez Cartel, according to the Texas Public Safety Threat Overview released by the DPS in late March.

The Zetas, La Familia and Gulf cartels overlap in their operational areas, roughly the eastern half of Texas; the Beltran Leyva Organization is based along the Texas Gulf Coast; and the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels operate primarily in West Texas, according to the DPS.

In the last half-dozen years or so, the cartels have expanded beyond drug smuggling to become multifaceted organized-crime groups dealing in murder, extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking, oil theft, money laundering, auto theft, weapons smuggling and corruption, McCraw said.

“They’ve evolved. They’ve adapted military tactics to engage each other and the Mexican government. They’ve adopted terrorist tactics that we’ve never seen before in organized crime. There have never been organized-crime groups that have been this depraved,” he said.

‘Franchise model’

Cartels have also broadened their “partnerships” with the growing number of Texas gangs, McCraw said. The DPS estimates that the Lone Star State has more than 100,000 gang members.

That “local franchise model” provides a robust ask-no-questions labor pool for everything from surveillance and drug transportation to weapons smuggling and murder, Burton said.

“These prison gangs are a real problem in Texas. In essence, they are subcontractors,” Burton said.

George Leal, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said cartels are highly adaptive enterprises with one goal: making money.

“I think what people may not realize is that these are intelligent folks and they are in it to make a profit. They know how to manage things and manage their money. They are very resourceful,” he said.

“It’s a moneymaking business. They don’t care who they hurt. They don’t care if somebody is going to be killed by these drugs. They just want to make money.”

The cash and drug statistics are staggering.

Estimates on the money that travels from the U.S. to Mexico from the drug trade range from $19 billion to $29 billion annually, according to the DPS.

From April 2006 to March 2013, 9.28 million pounds of drugs with a street value of $8.03 billion were seized in Texas.

Since 2006, Operation Border Star, Gov. Rick Perry’s border security operation, has seized more than $182 million in currency, according to the DPS.

As of May 31, 392 cartel members had been arrested in Texas since 2007, said DPS spokesman Tom Vinger, who notes that most crimes committed by cartels and statewide gangs go unreported.

Not counting the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa in Southlake on May 22, there have been 33 cartel-related homicides in Texas since 2009, Vinger said.

Logistical hub

The cartels are drawn to Dallas-Fort Worth by the same logistical infrastructure that attracts legitimate businesses — a central location and a spider web of interstates and rail lines that extend in every direction, cartel watchers say.

That “criminal supply chain” — centered on the Interstate 35 corridor, which starts in Laredo, the nation’s largest inland port of entry, and branches off into the I-10, I-20 and I-40 networks — transports the predominant amount of drugs that flow through the United States, Burton said.

“That’s why the cities in Texas are critical to the drug cartels. If you can get the dope to Dallas-Fort Worth, you’re pretty much home-free because from there you can scatter in all directions,” he said.

Another aspect of the supply chain is the extensive rail network in DFW, he said.

“Rail is how a lot of dope is moved across the country because you don’t have the high degree of scrutiny. That kind of supply chain work is what these guys do. They are brilliant when it comes to distribution,” Burton said.

Daniel Salter, acting special agent in charge of the Dallas field division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that since 2007, the Metroplex has morphed from a transportation hub into a distribution center with embedded cartel operatives managing operations.

“The reason we’ve shifted to what we call command-and-control elements is that we have drug cartels coming from San Antonio and Houston who come to Dallas to pick up their drugs. In the past, that was unheard of,” he said.

“They are bypassing cities closer to the borders. Our guys in Dallas are communicating directly with the interior of Mexico,” Salter said.

“These are very unassuming groups. They move in with their wives and kids and fit into our communities. They don’t buy the biggest houses on the block or have the fanciest cars. They’re smart. They know what draws attention.

“Proximity to the border is one reason they are here. But most of these organizations have families and relatives in this area, and that’s who they trust,” Salter said.

A case in point is Miguel Trevino Morales, a leader of the hyperviolent Zetas.

“He’s from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He has family here,” Salter said.

Last month, his brother, Jose Trevino Morales, was convicted by an Austin jury for laundering at least $60 million in drug money through quarter horse sales in the U.S.

Skipping the border

The cartels are no longer focused just on moving drugs across the border. They are concentrating on controlling drug networks in American cities, experts say.

La Familia was an early adapter. It skipped the volatile border area and set up operations in DFW, McCraw and Salter said.

It was involved primarily in methamphetamine distribution before it was hit hard by law enforcement, Salter said.

But in its place emerged a new cartel, the Knights Templar, a “poly-drug group who sell anything they can make money on,” he said.

The U.S. attorney’s office in North Texas has prosecuted 160 members of La Familia, Leal said.

“We’re working to keep the cartels at bay and fight them off. We are getting to them. We’ll find them and when we have the evidence to prove the crime, we will put them away,” he said.

The cartels “absolutely fear” U.S. prosecution, Salter said.

“They would rather live in Mexico and hide from their enemies and get killed than come to the U.S. and face prosecution,” he said.

Nimble operators

Another local example of the cagey cartels’ fluid approach to the drug business is the large marijuana “grows” that have been found in recent years, one near the DEA’s Dallas office and others on the periphery of the Metroplex in off-the-beaten-path areas of Ellis and Navarro counties.

From 2007 to 2009, the Navarro County Sheriff’s Department eradicated more than 40,000 plants tended by cartel farmers.

“They are incredibly nimble. They operate like a multinational corporation that always has to shift and relook at their business models,” Burton said. “They do their homework. They adjust their business models based on geography.”

The same things are happening in Oklahoma, where three giant marijuana farms linked to cartels — one with 8,900 plants — were found last year, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

In Mexico, 60,000 deaths have been attributed to drug violence, and McCraw said cartels are increasingly pushing back at Texas law enforcement with military tactics.

“If you have pursuits, they no longer stop and bail out. They make every effort to get back to the river. They are using tire spikes and blocking vehicles,” he said, noting that shots have been fired from Mexico at 85 officers in Texas.

“Our concern is not what could happen — it’s what’s already happening.”

Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981