Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean (KFOX-TV, El Paso, Texas)
Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner issued a statement denying his department “lied to Congress” about the Ramos-Compean case, but Texas’ representatives in Congress aren’t buying it.
Skinner said affirmations from his staff to Congress that his office had investigative reports substantiating its claim Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean “wanted to shoot a Mexican” in the Feb. 17, 2005, incident with drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila were just “misstatements.”
But four Texas Republican congressman or staff members who attended the Sept. 26 meeting are rejecting Skinner’s explanation.
“Mr. Skinner sent his staff to brief me and three other members of Congress,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul explained to WND. “During that briefing we were told that Mr. Compean and Mr. Ramos stated, ‘they were out to shoot Mexicans.’ The DHS staff made these statements several times. Why wouldn’t we believe them? Didn’t they have the facts of their investigation by that point? It was just two weeks later that these Border Patrol agents were sentenced.”
The two agents were arrested for and convicted of shooting at Aldrete-Davila, who was attempting to bring marijuana into the U.S. as he fled back into Mexico. The agents now are serving prison terms of 11 and 12 years while the smuggler was given immunity to return to the U.S. and testify against them.
WND previously reported Skinner admitted under oath Feb. 6 to the DHS Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that his investigators had “misrepresented” DHS internal reports in the Sept. 26 briefing to Reps. McCaul, John Culberson, Ted Poe and Kenny Marchant.
In his new statement, Skinner directly asserted, “I stand by the work of my office. Our investigators did an outstanding job, and I fully support their work.
“At no time did any member of my staff lie to Congress about the investigation of Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean or any other matter,” Skinner said. “My staff has acted honestly and in good faith.”
But Skinner continued to acknowledge his staff made “misstatements,” although he denied those misstatements had any material impact on the outcome of the case:
At the time my staff tried to accommodate then Chairman McCaul by providing an oral briefing, we did not have the benefit of a trial transcript or even a written report of investigation. Consequently, my staff made some misstatements during the briefing, but nothing that affected the investigation, the trial, the convictions or the sentencing of Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean.
WND has reported that the Sept. 26 meeting was called by McCaul, who was then chairman of the Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
In the same article, WND also reported that for over four months following the Sept. 26 meeting, DHS refused to turn over promised investigative reports its investigators purported would validate their claims that Ramos and Compean were “rogue Border Patrol” agents.
Now Skinner’s explanation is being questioned, too.
“Mr. Skinner admitted that his staff made mistakes during two different congressional hearings,” McCaul told WND. “He should fix the mistakes, make sure they don’t happen again and move on.”
Marchant also rejected Skinner’s statement.
“Although the office of Mr. Skinner phrased their statements carefully so as not to lie directly,” Marchant said, “they certainly misled us into believing that the agents went on patrol with the intent of shooting someone. During the briefing we were told one or both Mr. Ramos and Compean said they wanted ‘to shoot a Mexican.'”
Michael Green, press secretary to Culberson, told WND the congressman continued to stand behind a letter he wrote to Skinner on Feb. 14.
In that letter, Culberson called for Skinner’s resignation, as well as the resignations of the three representatives of the DHS Inspector General’s office who met with the congressmen Sept. 26 – DHS Deputy Inspector James Taylor, DHS Assistant for Investigations Elizabeth Redman and DHS Congressional Liaison Tamara Faulkner.
In a press release, Poe was equally critical of Skinner’s disclaimer supporting his staff.
Poe explained Skinner’s staff failed to produce the documents supporting their assertions because the documents “don’t exist.”
Poe objected to Skinner’s assertion that the briefing was provided to McCaul and the other Texas congressmen “at his request in his capacity as chair of the subcommittee on Investigations. Mr. McCaul and the other members understood that the information my office was providing was not public, and was not to be made public – it was for official use only for the committee’s use in discharging its official business.”
Poe countered: “At no time was I told that the information given to me and the three other members of Congress was confidential, however I’m sure the OIG staff wishes it had been since the staff misled us on what occurred at the border. To imply that the false information given to us was not intended for the public justifies lying to Members of Congress is flat out appalling.”
“OIG would do well to simply tell the truth and give accurate information, in public and private,” Poe’s statement continued, “rather than to use slick Madison Avenue press releases to justify their misstatements.”
In an interview with WND, Jack Hirschfield, press secretary to McCaul, told WND “Skinner has admitted to Congress under oath his staff provided false statements to Congress about Ramos and Compean. You can call the statements misstatements or mistakes, those statements were false and that makes them lies.”
“What Representative McCaul wanted to know from DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner,” Hirschfield explained to WND, “is Number One, how are you going fix the problem. Number Two, we want to know how the problem existed. Number Three, why did you come to members of Congress with false information? Number Four, why did you provide this information to Congress? And Number Five, what disciplinary action is going to be taken against your staff for providing these false statements? Basically, how are you going to clean up your mess and make sure it never happens again?”
“What we expected from Mr. Skinner in short order after his admission to Congress under oath that his staff misrepresented their reports was the answers to these questions,” Hirschfield argued. “What Skinner ended up sending was this memo which made the hole he was in even deeper.”
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