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BP Agent Brian Terry was part of a BORTAC team (for border tactical unit) tracking armed drug smugglers 15 miles northwest of Nogales, Ariz., (and only three miles west of Interstate 19) when they were attacked with automatic weapons fire. The area is well-known as a major drug-smuggling corridor, and the smugglers are known to frequently be armed with AK-47s and other long rifles.

 

Here’s the part Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Border Patrol management are trying to hide: Border Patrol Agent Terry and the BORTAC team were under standing orders to always use (“non-lethal”) bean-bag rounds first before using live ammunition. When the smugglers heard the first rounds, they returned fire with real bullets, and Agent Terry was killed in that exchange. Real bullets outperform bean bags every time.

 

The larger, ugly truth Napolitano and senior managers in the Border Patrol want to hide is that the rules of engagement and inadequate weaponry of the Border Patrol place the lives of all agents at grave risk. The National Border Patrol Council, which represents over 15,000 field agents, believes the border is too dangerous for officers to patrol without body armor, armored vehicles and automatic weapons.

 

Another aspect of this story that is not being reported is that the site of the shooting, Peck Canyon, is inside the area Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has proposed to designate as the Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness reserve. If Grijalva’s bill is enacted into law, what is now a well-established drug smuggling corridor will become a drug-smuggling superhighway, because the Border Patrol will be prohibited from patrolling the region. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah has proposed legislation that will remove the restrictions on Border Patrol jurisdiction on such public lands within 50 miles of the border.

 

On Thursday, Secretary Napolitano and several aides flew to Tucson to meet with local Border Patrol brass. The Obama administration obviously has a mess on its hands, and Napolitano does not want it to blow up before today’s U.S. Senate vote on the Dream Act. They know another murder on the southwest border will not help garner needed votes for the Dream Act, because senators supporting that bill must be able to say with a straight face, “The border is as secure as it has ever been.”

 

The BORTAC team encountered not one or two smugglers but a team of eight. Four are in custody, one is under surveillance in the rugged terrain of the Pajarita Wilderness area east of the small ranch town of Ruby, and three others are missing. The captured smugglers had AK-47s and backpacks filled with ammunition, food and radios. There are rumors that three of the captured four are members of the Mexican military, but that is unconfirmed. Yet, it would not be the first time Mexican police and military have been apprehended smuggling drugs into the United States.

 

It is not widely reported by our news media that the smugglers maintain a dozen or more permanent lookout posts on desert hilltops inside the U.S., and that those lookout posts are manned in week-long shifts by individuals who commute not from Mexico but from Phoenix, Tucson and other Arizona cities.

 

The allegation that the Sinaloa drug cartel obtained those AK-47s from gun shops in the United States is nonsensical. That’s a fairy tale cooked up by the Obama administration and endorsed by the Mexican government because they do not want to admit that the cartels get most of their serious weaponry from the international black market and the Mexican military itself.

 

The rules requiring first use of bean-bag ammunition is but one example of the suicidal rules of engagement that govern Border Patrol operations. The reason they have such insane rules? The politicians who run the agency do not want the public to think the border is so dangerous a place that Border Patrol agents fear for their lives. In other words, the rules of engagement are based on a lie, a lie that must be maintained for political purposes.

 

Secretary Napolitano should do two things on Monday morning. First, she should order all Border Patrol agents to be issued weapons adequate for both self-defense and apprehension of armed drug smugglers. The second thing she should do Monday morning is resign.

 

Tom Tancredo is a former five-term congressman from Colorado and 2008 candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. He currently serves as chairman of the Rocky Mountain Foundation and co-chairman of TeamAmericaPac. Tancredo is the author of “In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America’s Border and Security.”