It has long been known that U.S. authorities use unmanned aerial drones to patrol the nearly 2,000-mile U.S./Mexico border. However, a recent report by FOX News‘ William La Jeunesse reveals the U.S. is engaging in aerial surveillance over Mexican soil–manned surveillance flights.
Such efforts are not new on the part of U.S. authorities. Manned surveillance flights have long been a part of U.S. efforts to break the backs of Colombian drug cartels. The Colombian mission has seen its share of catastrophe, though. Two surveillance planes went down, a pilot was killed by narco-guerrillas, and a number of Americans were held captive for years until Operation Jaque, a Colombian operation, freed them.
A private company conducts the operations, which La Jeunesse says are daily. He was quoted Aram Roston of vocative.com as stating: “I’m told that they fly daily and as much as possible. They land, they refuel, they get their maintenance, and they get out again.” He also wrote that the planes are manned by a defense contractor named Sierra Nevada.
The privatization of U.S. border security and anti-cartel efforts are not new in the war against Mexican cartels, though they have been substantially under-reported in U.S. media. Several sources in U.S. law enforcement who work directly on such issues have acknowledged to Breitbart News that rural border counties sometimes hire privatized narcotics interdiction teams to assist in drug war efforts with boots on the ground.
Law enforcement from Laredo, Texas to Oregon have acknowledged that a severe lack of resources exist to handle the Mexican cartels’ efforts in rural U.S. counties. Laredo Police Department’s Joe Baeza spoke to Breitbart News on multiple past occasions regarding rural Texas counties along the U.S./Mexico border that do not have internet, much less the gear, firepower, or manpower to deal with such organized criminal efforts.
In an interview with Breitbart News from May of this year, Oregon Department of Justice Communications Director Jeff Manning acknowledged that Mexican cartel operations were overwhelming rural Oregon counties’ law enforcement capabilities. The general consensus among the law enforcement sources who spoke with Breitbart News on this issue, excluding the two mentioned above, acknowledged that privatized efforts were ultimately more affordable than hiring needed officers, and the experience levels of some of the privatized border warriors are sometimes difficult to match in rural counties.
Though no information is available as to why the U.S. has chosen to use private subcontractors to conduct surveillance over Mexico, the issues surrounding such efforts on the ground north of the border may help to illuminate the reasons. However, unlike rural Texas or Oregon county efforts, the flights in this case involve federal agencies such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who reportedly had over 100 planes at their disposal as early as 2009. U.S. government agencies’ contracting with private companies has come under fire previously with allegations of cronyism or fiscal waste, as they have ample resources to operate the missions themselves, unlike rural U.S. counties.