Posts Tagged ‘WITNESS SECURITY PROGRAM’
Actor Sean Penn believes the Mexican Government wants to put him at risk by convincing Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman that Penn played a role—deliberately or negligently—in his capture.
“We know the Mexican government, they clearly were humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did,” Penn told interviewer Charlie Rose.
“Nobody found him before they did. We are not smarter than the DEA, or Mexican Intelligence. We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.”
By “we” Penn meant himself and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who had actually arranged the meeting.
Actress Kate del Castillo
“They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?” Rose asked.
“Yes,” Penn answered.
This is entirely possible. Guzman’s escape from a “maximum security” prison in July, 2015, had proved internationally embarrassing for the Mexican Government
Even more embarrassing: He escaped through a mile-long tunnel that literally led to his cell. Almost certainly this happened with the collusion of some prison guards.
Penn–and del Castillo–could face dangers from at least three groups.
Danger #1: El Chapo
Already there is evidence that “El Chapo” regrets having given an interview to Penn and del Castillo in the Mexican jungle on October 2, 2015.
Published in Rolling Stone on January 9, the article contained such Guzman boasts as:
“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anyone else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”
Juan Pablo Badillo, one of Guzman’s attorneys, has since claimed that the article contains falsehoods:
“It’s a lie, absurd speculation from Mr. Penn. Mr. Penn should be called to testify to respond about the stupidities he has said.
“He [Guzman] could not have made these claims. Mr. Guzman is a very serious man, very intelligent.”
This could spell danger for Penn and del Castillo. Guzman is responsible for the deaths of thousands of rivals, journalists and police.
Among the witnesses to the drug cartels’ savagery is Michael Levine, a 25-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the author of Deep Cover: Mexican Government Drug Corruption From the Inside.
“Depending on what the cartels and/or the many corrupt Mexican cops and Mexican government officials believe El Chapo divulged during the interview, Penn, and whomever else was present, may be in more physical danger than he could ever imagine,” said Levine.
An anonymous law enforcement official said that not only could Penn be in danger, but so could his entire family.
“It won’t happen now. They [the cartels] wait. Him or people close to him are in danger. They don’t single out the one person. They go for the person’s family.
“He poked his head into a nest of vipers with an amazing global reach. He was a fool. As public as Penn is, he will be a sitting duck.”
Danger #2: Guzman’s Competitors in the Drug Trade
“The problem with dealing with someone like Guzman on this personal basis, where one is perceived as a ‘friend’ or an aide or a business partner of sorts to Chapo, is that you have to be prepared to inherit all his enemies, and there are many,” warned Michael Levine.
“These are some very kill-crazy people. The notoriety gained by killing someone like Penn or even del Castillo will actually turn these bastards on.
“It’s a step into the dark world of the kill crazies. Believe me it is there, and unwittingly these two may have stepped into a world where there is an actual competition to kill them,” said Levine, who has dealt face-to-face with Latin American drug lords.
Danger #3: Wannabe Cartel Members
Countless men–in Mexico and the United States–would love to “do El Chapo a favor” by gunning down Penn and/or del Castillo.
This could happen even if Guzman harbors no ill will toward either. It would be enough for someone to simply believe that he did.
An additional motive: The fame–or infamy–that the assassin of a “big celebrity” like Penn would receive. John Lennon died at the hands of such a fame-obsessed, psychotic gunman.
This means that literally anyone could be a potential assassin–making it that much harder to defend against.
When clients enter the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program, they are quickly asked: “Who do you think poses the biggest threat to you?”
Deputy U.S. marshals, who operate the program, assume that a witness is the best judge of who poses the greatest danger to him.
Witness Security Program protection detail
This works well when a witness is unknown and testifying against someone who is equally unknown to the public.
But when a witness is notorious–such as Sammy “The Bull” Gravano–and the defendant is equally infamous–such as John Gotti–all bets are off.
Of course, Federally-protected witnesses have two advantages going for them that Penn and del Castillo do not:
First, they are protected by the U.S. Marshals Service, which has an excellent track record in protecting its charges; and
Second, they are expected to assume a low profile, which serves as their best protection.
Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo aren’t Federally-protected witnesses. And they’re unlikely to assume a low profile by going into hiding.
Actor Sean Penn is used to being a tough guy–onscreen.
In 2006, he played real-life mobster Mickey Cohen (1913 – 1976) in Gangster Squad. And in 2013, he played Willie Stark, a corrupt, Huey Long-type Southern governor in a remake of All the King’s Men.
As Cohen, Penn put out contracts on his enemies and even went mano-o-mano in a long-running (and fictional) fistfight with an LAPD detective.
And as Stark, he clawed his way to power and bullied both his enemies and his supporters.
Perhaps Penn should have paid more attention to the way those movies ended.
Mickey Cohen goes to prison, where he is brutally waylaid by other inmates.
And Willie Stark, at the height of his power, is shot by a longtime enemy.
Had he thought about it, he might have decided it could be a mistake to meet with Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman, the notorious Mexican drug lord.
On October 2, 2015, Penn met with Guzman in an undisclosed location in the Mexican jungle. He was there to interview him on behalf of Rolling Stone magazine.
Guzman wanted a movie made about him. So he had reached out to Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, asking her to meet with him to discuss such a project. She, in turn, referred him to Penn, whom Guzman said could come along for the meeting.
Penn had his own agenda: To write an article for Rolling Stone whose “purpose [would] contribute to this conversation on the war on drugs.”
Three months later, on January 8, 2016, Mexican Marines and Federal Police launched an early-morning raid on a house in Los Mochis, in northern Sinaloa, where Guzman’s drug cartel operated.
The Marines expected to find Guzman there, and they did–ending his almost six-month flight after escaping from prison in July.
One day after Guzman’s capture, Rolling Stone published Penn’s 10,000-word article.
Penn had not been allowed to bring a tape recorder or even take notes with pen and paper. So he had been forced to memorize as much of Guzman’s tale as he could.
Penn seemed to be enraptured by Guzman:
“There is no doubt this is the real deal. He’s wearing a casual patterned silk shirt, pressed black pants, and he appears remarkably well-groomed and healthy for a man on the run.
“He opens [actress Kate del Castillo’s] [car} doorand greets her like a daughter returning from college.
“It seems important to him to express the warm affection in person that, until now, he’d only had occasion to communicate from afar.”
Even so, Penn quoted Guzman as bragging: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman
After the interview’s publication, Penn came under fire for having allowed Guzman to approve the article. He claimed that, despite this, Guzman had not asked for any changes.
He also drew sharp criticism for having used his status as a movie star to play the part of a reporter.
But worse was to come.
Shortly after the capture of “El Chapo,” Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez “credited” Penn with having played a vital role in the capture of the drug kingpin.
The meeting between Penn, Castillo and Guzman “was an essential element, because we were following [Guzman’s] lawyer, and the lawyer took us to these people and to this meeting.”
Suddenly, American experts on Mexican organized crime cartels began seeing Sean Penn in a new light–that of a movie star with a big target on his chest and back.
Suppose Guzman began suspecting that Penn had deliberately led Mexican authorities to him? Or that he had done so even accidentally, through negligence in how he had traveled?
“These cartels are very violent, they do not forgive any transgression and they will respond in a most violent manner,” said Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
“These are people who have been dismembered, who have decapitated individuals. So killing Sean Penn and del Castillo means absolutely nothing to them.”
Vigil believed it was careless for the Mexican Government to publicize any ties between the Penn meeting and Guzman’s arrest:
“If Chapo Guzman perceives that they cooperated with authorities in his capture, [the cartel] will go after them.”
He argued that the risk is likely likely for del Castillo because she was the one in contact with Guzman.
She was the one whom Guzman’s associates supplied with a Blackberry–the phone they believed most secure. And it was her and Guzman’s flirtatious exchanges that led to the meeting in the jungle with Sean Pean.
“Apart from that, [del Castillo] is originally from Mexico, she has all of her family in Mexico. One of the traditional violent methods [the cartels] use is if they can’t get to the target, they’ll go after their family members.
“If I were Kate del Castillo, I would run like the wind.”