Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Update 4/27/2017 The out going Obama administration ignored the issues described here to the end. Nothing to report during the first 100 days of the Trump Administration.
The training cutter Eagle anchored near Coast Guard Headquarters
Coast Guard Cutter Eagle Passing USCG Headquarters, Washington DC

Editorial Note 1/17/2015 : Since this was posted the killer of Chief Horne has been brought to trial and found guilty. There has been no change in the Coast Guard's use of force policies and if they were studied at all, no publicly available report has been issued. There has still been no action by Congress or the President concerning declaration of the Zetas as a military threat to the United States and their status as "unlawful combatants as well as criminals. The Texas border with Mexico continues to be mostly protected by Texas.  


 Chief Boatswain's mate Terrell Horne, USCG was killed February 3, 2012 when a suspected  smuggler's vessel deliberately rammed the small craft the he was piloting, launched as a chase boat from the Coast Guard Cutter HALIBUT. Coast Guardsmen and women often die in the line of duty with relatively little notice from the U.S. news media. The work of the Coast Guard is inherently hazardous. Their combat losses, sometimes quite large in proportion to the size of the service, are often lost in the greater numbers of the Department of Defense military branches or are confused with and reported as Navy losses.  But yesterday's loss requires some examination on two counts.

  In the history the Coast Guard's decades long modern fight with drug and human smugglers and other maritime border violators ramming is an extremely rare tactic. And thankfully, it has not been reported as repeated since the death of Chief  Horne.  It has become almost routine that upon the approach of a heavily armed Coast Guard vessel the smugglers are busy throwing evidence and weapons carried to ward off hijacks from rival criminals overboard. Little resistance has been offered the Coast Guardsmen coming across the gunwales in force. On February 3, 2012 a suspect boat turned and deliberately rammed a Coast Guard chase boat with deadly results. We have to ask, does this signal a new attitude and tactics on the part of the drug lords and human traffickers plaguing our coasts?   

 We know that a group called the "ZETAS" made up originally of deserters from the Mexican Army Special Forces entered the drug trade some years ago as muscle for at least one Mexican drug cartel. They eventually recruited other Mexican army deserters, army trained individuals from other Central American nations, and even some former Mexican Police officers. Then they killed their former employers and took over and expanded the enterprise. There has been ample testimony before Congress about the utter ruthlessness of these Zatas.

  Is attacking and ramming a Coast Guard chase craft a signal that the game has changed and when caught "fair and square" they no longer intend to come in quietly,  post massive bail and disappear as in the past. This is an issue that Coast Guard Intelligence should analyze in the wake of the loss of Chief Horne. Regardless of the results of that analysis the Coast Guard's "USE OF FORCE POLICY" needs a revisit.

 The Coast Guard's "USE OF FORCE POLICY " informs and guides the behavior of the service's personnel when armed and engaged in criminal law enforcement missions. Because of the extra slipping and falling hazards , ricochet potential, and other unique hazards of using firearms on vessels the rules for weapon deployment and use for Coast Guard personnel are more restrictive generally than typical such rules for large municipal police departments. One prohibition that they hold in common is an extreme reluctance to fire into a vehicle, which in the Coast Guard case could be either an actual vehicle on a wharf or a vessel. There is a very valid reason for this reluctance; law enforcement operations are not combat. Law enforcement officers can't always know who is in a vehicle or vessel, willing accomplices or hostages. Unlike combat "collateral damage" is most difficult to explain and rarely forgiven. But a car or a boat can be a deadly weapon and wielded with an intent to kill or injure. We saw an example of a use of force policy that allows firing into vehicles recently when Capitol police fired into a vehicle that would not stop, heed orders, and was periodically "aimed" at officers. The automobile was fired into, the driver killed. She proved to be unarmed, had a history of mental illness, and a baby in the vehicle with her who was fortunately not injured. This case no doubt will be long discussed in police use of force policy forums; but so far the officers are not being charged with excessive force and the use of deadly force in this case while unfortunate in its results, appears to have been unavoidable unless the on foot officers were equipped with some other means of stopping the vehicle.

 Perhaps our Coast Guard needs more on scene discretionary authority to fire into vehicles and vessels used as weapons. As so recently demonstrated deliberate rammings can cause death. When the intent is clear, Coast Guard personnel should have very clear authority to open fire in a manner designed to stop the boat. If a ramming is successful by a suspect vessel that then flees the scene, shooting into the boat in a manner designed to stop the boat, including shooting the operator should be permissible. 

 Another element that needs revisiting in the Coast Guard "USE OF FORCE POLICY" in this age of war on the United States by non state organizations is the choice of when to engage under the USE OF FORCE POLICY and when to engage under the LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT . The State of Texas has been lobbying for some time for an official Congressional declaration that the Zetas and others are enemies of the United States and should be militarily engaged when found on our soil or in our waters as such, meaning that the Law of Armed Conflict should apply and not typical police "Use of Force Policies." The differences are important. Under the Law of Armed Conflict forces may lay in wait for enemies and open fire on identification. Sheriff Zegfried Gonzales of  Texas suggest that people riding in Humvees with mounted 50 cal. weapons and no official markings as have been seen along the Rio Grande on the Texas side should not have to be engaged by a law enforcement officer waiving a 38 cal. pistol and trying to read the occupants their Marinda rights. Under the Law of Armed Conflict, law enforcement and /or military forces could simply open fire from protected positions. Another great difference between Use of Force Polices and the Law of Armed conflict is that under the Law of Armed Conflict enemy personnel may be pursued and shot at, even if shooting at their backs. The only armed combatant that can't be shot is the one who drops his and weapon and surrenders. 

 The present Coast Guard use of force policy addresses the fact that what starts out as a law enforcement mission could turn into a military engagement. But the present policy requires that the senior commissioned officer present make the decision of when and if to switch the engagement fire control and tactical regulation over to the Law of Armed Conflict. There is only one thing right about this policy, and that is that our do nothing Congress has never addressed the issue so it takes some real sophisticated knowledge to correctly make this call with drug and human smuggling still left squarely in the realm of law enforcement. Unfortunately commissioned officers can often be scarce or non existent at the scene of many of these confrontations. In the instant case Chief Horne, a non commissioned officer was actually second in command of the larger cutter from which the pursuit boats were launched. That would indicate that at most there was probably one rather junior commissioned officer back on the slower moving larger cutter. The nation needs for Congress to wake up, hear the pleas of the State of Texas and declare the Zetas and their like  "unlawful combatants"  and specifically authorize engagement under the Law of Armed conflict based on weapons and tactics observed by the "senior officer, or petty, or non commissioned officer present". There will always be one of those on scene. According to Congressional testimony at least in Texas which has asked Congress for a "persistent Coast Guard Presence on the Rio Grande" the militarily trained and organized Zetas have already killed Texas civilians not involved in the drug trade or any other illegal activity, and fired numerous times on Texas state law enforcement officers. These people are common criminals but they are also terrorists as the testimony coming out of Texas indicates. Now   they inflict death on a Coast Guard Chief. Do we simply hold the one boat operator responsible? Or do we use this occasion to ratchet up our response against the whole criminal /terrorist enterprise? This is going to require some serious review by both the USCG and Congress. Let's hope they avoid the fiscal cliff long enough to get back to the business of the nation other than rescuing the treasury from their own past malfeasance. We revisited the tragic death of Chief Horne today because we monitor most specialty maritime media and in the more than year and half since the event we have not heard of anyone going to trial for the Chief's murder, or of any findings, policy changes or confirmations as a result of any review of the incident. Neither have we heard after more than three years of monitoring of any Congressional action on the request of Texas for that persistent Coast Guard presence on the Rio Grande. 

 Of course in all of the years since we became aware of the war along the Rio Grande Congress has annually shut down the government, ruined the credit of the United States, and failed to pass a simple budget. They have turned the routine annual budget process into an occasion of utter ruin for the nation. Why would we ever think that Congress would be capable of dealing with these life or death issues we report on?

The Continuing War on the Rio Grande

It's Not Just The Zeta Drug Lords, Terrorists Are Getting In

 Below is a hyperlink to an Atlanta television station news cast concerning the infiltration by terrorist along our Southwest Border. In the broad cast the local investigative journalists provide what they believe is proof that the Southwest Border is being used by terrorists to infiltrate the United States. Worse, the Journalists appear to indicate that the Department of Homeland Security is well aware of all of this and misrepresents whats going on to the general public. Amazingly, this sort of investigative journalism hardly ever gets air time on the national media.

 In our opinion, whats worse is that the Department of Homeland Security routinely is less than candid about the situation on the Southwest Border with Congress. Check out the story via the hyper-link below and then hit your return button to read about our previous coverage of this issue and why we believe the Department of Homeland Security is less than candid to Congress about the relative security along our Southwest Border.
  Click anywhere on the hyper link below to view the video:


 We first published on the Southern Border issue on March 2, 2016 when guest blogger Vic Sicotra published his post titles The Aye Ayes of Texas. We urge our readers to go back and reread this posting which describes the arrival of the first of a series of gun boats purchased and operated by the State of Texas to deal with problems posed by the very violent Zeta Drug Organization. As pointed out in the article Texas had asked Congress for a "persistent Coast Guard presence" on the Rio Grande to help combat violent incursions by the Zetas and the use by the Zetas of the Rio Grande as an avenue of transportation. There was already speculation at that point that the Zetas and other Drug cartels along the Rio Grande and along the desert Southwest Border had branched into the illegal human smuggling trade to include not only illegal migrant workers but terrorist operatives as well.

 When we look at the Congressional testimony of the Department of Homeland Security officials in the relevant time frame we see that no less than the Secretary of Homeland Security informed Congress that the U.S. Southwest Border had" never been more secure". In only weeks after this pronouncement was made a Texas State Department of Public Safety official and Texas Rio Grande Valley Sheriffs were before Congress declaring that they had the bullet holes in their squad cars and elsewhere to prove otherwise.

 The Coast Guard was ordered to report to Congress by January of 2011 with a plan to provide the "persistent Coast Guard presence" asked for by Texas. By June of 2011 the Coast Guard had still not provided the plan as requested. The Commandant of the Coast Guard found himself before a Congressional subcommittee and was asked where the report was. At first he tried to take the full blame for the non delivery but on severe cross examination he admitted that the report remained on the desk of the Secretary of Homeland Security where it was delivered in time for presentation to Congress within their requested time frame. By March of 2012 we still found no sign of the requested "persistent Coast Guard presence". In fact, quite the opposite, it appeared that Texas was on a virtual war footing in the Rio Grande Valley busily arming its only equivalent of a naval special boat unit or a Coast Guard Port Security Unit, along with Militarized Recon units of Texas Rangers. 

 Since we are not primarily a news organization we did not follow the story beyond March of 2012 simply because there was so little in the media, including the specialized maritime media that we closely follow. We bring you the news in the above hyper linked video simply because it is the first news we have had since March on the issue. It does not appear that the federal government has responded to the pleas of Texas.

 Obviously along the desert border as opposed to the river border they have captured real terrorists but don't feel that the citizens of the United States or the Congress need to know about this. We're glad that agencies of the DHS have collared some bad guys, but if the DHS is so blind to a virtual riverine war along the Texas border as it apparently is, what assurance do we have that they got all of the bad guys and have done anything to deter terrorists from considering infiltration via our Southwest Border? The international river of the Rio Grande and the Texas request for a "persistent Coast Guard presence" being of particular interest to us as a maritime organization. 

By Guest Blogger Vic Socotra


(A Littoral Combat Ship- this one the USS Independence fitting out. Navy Photo.)

It is easy to get my buddy Boats going. He is a crusty old Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate from the Hooligan Navy- the proud and ironic title used by member of the United States Coast Guard.

He told me one time that the Marines and the Coast Guard work very well together, since the two Services operate (in wartime for the Coasties) as part of the Department of the Navy, who is the real enemy.
Increasingly, my old service is involved in real important things like commissioning ships in memory of the cantankerous Earmark King of Pennsylvania, Rep. John Murtha, labor activist and hero of La Raza, Cesar Chavez, and most recently, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
But don’t get me going on this. I will just say that the ship named for her Gabby will be the Navy’s 10th Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), another good idea whose time may have passed. It is designed to bring the Navy fighting power into brown water coastal areas.  The first two ships in this class were called Freedom and Independence, but the conventional naming practice since has been to use American cities.

SECNAV Mabus said the naming is appropriate for “someone who has become synonymous with courage, who has inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”

That is all true, and the Congresswoman’s husband was a Naval Aviator and Astronaut, but c’mon. A victim of gun violence being honored with the legacy of a heavily-armed littoral combat ship? There are plenty of Medal of Honor winners whose names have not been used.
Just for the record, I want to say that I opposed the naming of the Nimitz-class carrier George H.W. Bush, the Seawolf-class submarine Jimmie Carter, or the Senator Richard C. Shelby Center for Missile and Space Analysis for that matter.

You are supposed to be dead to qualify for the honor, like the USS Gerald Ford. But like I said, this is a new world and all sorts of new fun.

So I was worked up anyway, and heard the news on CNN, and poked Boats about the Texas Navy. We had been talking about the largely moribund concept of state Naval Militias. Michigan doesn’t need one, at the moment, and the Coast Guard seems to take care of Florida in a fairly business-like manner.

But the word that the Texas Department of Public Safety will deploy the first of a fleet of six gunboats on the Rio Grande, the river that delineates the international frontier with our neighbor to the south.
(I don’t know what the name of this particular warship is, but note the machine gun on the foredeck. Photo Texas DPS.)

The 34-foot-long boats, each powered by three, 300-horsepower outboard engines that can operate in water as shallow as two feet. They will also be armored and tote six machine guns apiece, not unlike the river patrol boats the Navy used during the Vietnam War. In fact, the new boats are intended to augment two Swift Boats someone cobbled together from the war in SE Asia.

The six boats will be named after Texas state troopers killed in the line of duty. The first was DPS Jerry Don Davis, who was shot and killed in 1980. The second will be named in honor of trooper David Irvine Rucker, who was killed in 1981.

Boats wrote me back, clearly agitated. “What I predicted for over a year is coming true. The DHS has refused to protect Texas. The report that Congress demanded for January 2011 still sits on Secretary Napolitano’s desk. She promised a "persistent Coast Guard presence" on the Rio Grande that she has not been able to deliver.”

“There have been two "Swift Boats" operating on the big impoundments like Falcon Lake for about a year, where that couple was assaulted by druggies a while back. The six new ones are intended to patrol the lower river.”

“To support them, two heavily armed companies of Texas Rangers have been trained to act as RECON units. They have been in the valley for a year.”

“The real story isn't drug smuggling though the Zeta drug organization is at the heart of the problem. The problem has been military like attacks by the Zetas on the Texas side of the border against remote ranchers defending their property, private citizens and law enforcement personnel. As much as a year ago I was predicting that it would come to this and the eventual consequences.”

The Texas DPS wants to change the "rules of engagement" away from standard law enforcement practices to military-type rules based on the law of armed conflict. This would avoid the type of lunacy described before Congress by Sheriff Sigfried Gonzales where the Sheriff is supposed to stand in the road with his 38 cal. revolver facing a Zeta manned Humvee with a tripod mounted 50 cal. machine gun and ask them to stop so he can read them their Marinda rights. If Texas had received the change they asked for Texas Ranger Recon units could lay in ambush and open fire on known Zeta targets like that armed Humvee.”
“Texas wanted to avoid direct risk of confrontation between their own military and paramilitary forces like the Texas Rangers and Texas State Guard with the Mexican Military patrolling just a few hundred yards away on the other side of the river. This is why Texas asked for but was refused a "persistent Coast Guard presence on the Rio Grande."
“So, now Texas State Gun boats and two companies of militarized Texas Rangers are in the area and the Texas State paramilitary presence is growing. Read your Texas history. Texas in the end always controls its borders and a main feature of that control has been a willingness, almost an enthusiasm, for crossing the river and eliminating any sanctuaries of the enemy.”
The problem today is that on the South side of the river the Mexican Army is on patrol looking for the same bad guys but would fire without hesitation on a Texas uniform. Due to DC based stupidity we are growing ever closer to the danger of exchanges of gunfire between governmental forces.”
“The situation screams for federal control but its not coming. Texas is on its own that's why it's building gunboats. In no time we will see at least nine Texas-owned machinegun mounted gunboats on this international river, and the valley will largely be protected by forces with a historical habit of eventually denying sanctuary to their enemy even if they must cross the Rio Grande to root them out.”
“This time, though, the Mexican regular army is on the far side.  It is even possible that Texas DPS paramilitary forces independent of the Texas National Guard could conceivably defeat the Mexican Regulars. But remember, even if Texas wins, the U.S. loses in such a confrontation. It is time for that "persistent Coast Guard presence" asked for by Texas. It' s time for federal forces to cover the ground in the valley.”
I think that is perfectly reasonable; but I also don’t think that is going to happen. I wrote him back to say so. “We are ignoring a war in progress on our southern boarder that has killed more than 34,000 Mexicans, assassinated dozens of mayors and police, and killed a hundred American citizens, including federal agents.
Boats doesn’t think our government is going to step up to do anything about it. I have always believed defense of the borders was a Federal and not a State thing, and we ought to treat it that way.
The right thing is for the Hooligan Navy to be directed to do its job. In the meantime, he thinks people ought not to mess with Texas. The names of the ships in their little fleet send exactly that message. What on earth are we going to do it Texas goes to war again on its own?

 Texas Swift Boat.jpg .jpg
Copyright 2012 Vic Socotra

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