More Details on the Tres Marias Ambush

Matthew Aid linked to FOIAed State Department documents on the ambush of two intelligence officials in August 2012 (the documents were actually released to John Dyer in 2014).

They provide a number of interesting new details about the assault (see my earlier coverage here, here, here, and here).

  • Although the State Department hesitated to use the word “ambush” publicly for some time after the event, internal documents used that term immediately
  • The Federal Police — the same people who conducted the ambush! — brought the Americans to a hospital in Cuernavaca, though there were also army and navy individuals present (note, there had been a shooting in Cuernavaca the previous day)
  • There were 152 shots fired at the American car — far more than reported in initial reports; 40% of those were focused on the front seat windows, which not only (according to a cable) are the most vulnerable spots in the armor on the SUV, but also happened to be where the Americans were sitting
  • There’s a reference to pictures from the phones of the “agents,” which seems to be a reference to the victims; this is the one instance where the cables drop the charade that these were general Embassy employees
  • Both DIA and CIA were copied immediately on the first cables (DEA was not copied on anything, I don’t think)
  • An early cable said that our escaping vehicle may have run over one or two of the assailants
  • Unsurprisingly, the FBI had the lead on investigating the incident from very early on, despite a public focus on Mexico’s Attorney General’s role
  • A mostly redacted cable complaining about the slow pace of the investigation includes discussion of the US refusing to provide the victims for witness testimony (remember one of the two was on Temporary Duty in Mexico, meaning they hadn’t approved him as a credentialed Embassy employee working under official cover)
  • The police commander who ordered the culprits to lie about whether they were wearing uniforms or not had been in appropriately promoted, suggesting he’s someone’s fixer

More generally, the cables seem concerned with measuring the seriousness with which President Felipe Calderón responded to the attack. For example, this partly redacted discussion relays someone’s explanation of Calderón’s instructions the day of the attack.

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Then, a cable relaying the public apology Calderón gave four days after the attack included these details, including that the apology was not in his written speech.

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A description of Ambassador Anthony Wayne’s meeting with Calderón on early September is mostly redacted (it also includes details of meetings with Mexico’s AG). That description went to — among others — CIA Director David Petraeus, as well as John Brennan (who was still in the White House). And once Enrique Peña Nieto was elected, the Americans seemed pretty enthusiastic about cooperating when them going forward rather than Calderón.

A number of the cables tie the attack closely to the Merida initiative.

 

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

4 replies
    • Denis says:

      Thank you, scribe. This post has minimal information content. It is an example of how bloggers often assume that every post is an update of every prior post and so there is no need to tell anybody what was in the prior posts. Link to them and to hell with the readers.
      .
      “The Federal Police — the same people who conducted the ambush! — brought the Americans to a hospital in Cuernavaca”
      .
      And Cuernavaca would be in – let me guess – Wisconsin?? Hold on, 2/3 of the way through the post we discover it’s (probably) about Mexico, and even then the reference is tangential.
      .
      Journalism 101: the first paragraph should provide short answers to Who?, What?, Where? and When? Really good advice. Even 2 out of 4 would help.
      .
      Just trying to promote quality writing on one of the best blogs going.
      .
      — Bub (Go Bucks)

      • emptywheel says:

        I appreciate your kind words.

        FWIW, I very pointedly avoid the kind of 800 words of boilerplate fluff you consider “journalism 101.” It’s a genre question, and that genre, while familiar for some, also tends to disrupt the news discovery process. Plus, I’m not paid six figures to write empty bullshit like those “journalism 101” writers are.

        The nice thing about not writing at the WaPo though is that one can assume if your readers have questions you’ve answered with links to past coverage, they have the aptitude to use those links.

    • emptywheel says:

      Drug fighting initiative. Hillary considers it a great success, but it probably involves a great deal of sovereignty issues for Mexico. While not central to my point, given the context of how it appears in Calderón’s speech, it seemed like he was saying the CIA (or DIA/JSOC or both) presence was acceptable bc of the info sharing going on.

      I’ve wondered whether the ambush was meant to interrupt an interrogation.

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