No escape? El Chapo likely off to ‘prison of all prisons’
By JIM MUSTIAN
Wednesday, February 13
NEW YORK (AP) — In the world of corrections, there are inmates who pose security risks, and then there’s “El Chapo.”
Drug lord Joaquin Guzman has an unparalleled record of jailbreaks, having escaped two high-security Mexican prisons before his ultimate capture and extradition to the United States.
So with Guzman convicted Tuesday of drug trafficking and staring at an expected life sentence, where will the U.S. imprison a larger-than-life kingpin with a Houdini-like tendency to slip away?
Experts say Guzman seems the ideal candidate for the federal government’s “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado, also known as ADX for “administrative maximum.” The facility is so secure, so remote and so austere that it has been called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”
“El Chapo fits the bill perfectly,” said Cameron Lindsay, a retired warden who ran three federal lockups, including the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. “I’d be absolutely shocked if he’s not sent to the ADX.”
Located outside an old mining town about two hours south of Denver, Supermax’s hardened buildings house the nation’s most violent offenders, with many of its 400 inmates held alone for 23 hours a day in 7-by-12-foot (2.1-by-3.7 meter) cells with fixed furnishings made of reinforced concrete.
Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols are among those who call it home.
But Guzman, set to be sentenced in June for smuggling enormous amounts of narcotics into the U.S and having a hand in dozens of murders, would stand out even from Supermax’s infamous roster because of his almost mythical reputation for breaking out.
That includes a sensational 2015 escape from the maximum-security Altiplano prison in central Mexico, where he communicated with accomplices for weeks via cellphone, slipped into an escape hatch beneath his shower, hopped on the back of a waiting motorcycle and sped through a mile-long, hand-dug tunnel to freedom.
Bribery is widely believed to have enabled that jailbreak, as well as a 2001 escape in which Guzman was smuggled out of another top-security Mexican prison in a laundry basket.
“There had to be collusion from within,” said Mike Vigil, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who worked undercover in Mexico. “There is no doubt corruption played a role in both of his spectacular escapes.”
Could that happen at Supermax? Not likely.
Prisoners at Supermax spend years in solitary confinement and often go days “with only a few words spoken to them,” an Amnesty International report found. One former prisoner, in an interview with The Boston Globe, described the lockup as a “high-tech version of hell, designed to shut down all sensory perception.”
Most inmates at Supermax are given a television, but their only actual view of the outside world is a 4-inch window. The window’s design prevents them from even determining where they are housed in the facility. Human interaction is minimal. Prisoners eat all meals in the solitude of their own cells, within feet of their toilets.
The facility itself is guarded by razor-wire fences, gun towers, heavily armed patrols and attack dogs.
“If ever there were an escape-proof prison, it’s the facility at Florence,” said Burl Cain, the former longtime warden of the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. “It’s the prison of all prisons.”
While federal authorities have not said for certain where El Chapo will be housed, he’s staring at “a sentence from which there is no escape and no return,” U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said after Tuesday’s verdict.
Guzman’s confinement leading up to his three-month trial included remarkable security measures reflecting his immense flight risk. He has been housed in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a Manhattan lockup known as “Little Gitmo” that has held notorious terrorists and mobsters.
Authorities have routinely shut down the Brooklyn Bridge to shuttle “El Chapo” to federal court in a police motorcade that includes a SWAT team and ambulance tracked by helicopters. Heavily armed federal officers and bomb-sniffing dogs have patrolled outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Officials were so concerned about security, in fact, that Guzman was forbidden from hugging his wife at his trial.
That apparently won’t be a problem if he winds up in Supermax, where all visits are non-contact, and prisoners are separated from their visitors by a thick plexiglass screen.
“Other than when being placed in restraints and escorted by guards, prisoners may spend years without touching another human being,” the Amnesty International report found.
AP Interview: Envoy says Russia’s clout in Afghanistan rises
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Wednesday, February 13
MOSCOW (AP) — A senior Russian diplomat says that because America “completely failed” in Afghanistan, this has opened the way for Moscow to expand its clout in the country.
Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy for Afghanistan, says many Afghans now view Russia as an impartial mediator that could help advance political process despite the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Kabulov told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday that the U.S. has “completely failed” in Afghanistan. He argued that it’s in the U.S. interests to withdraw its troops as quickly as possible and focus on financial assistance to the Afghan government to help the post-war recovery.
Last week, a meeting in Moscow brought together Afghan former officials, opposition igures and the Taliban but sidelined President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
Unhappy with deal, Trump still doesn’t expect a new shutdown
By JILL COLVIN, ANDREW TAYLOR, ALAN FRAM and JONATHAN LEMIRE
Wednesday, February 13
WASHINGTON (AP) — Under mounting pressure from his own party, President Donald Trump appears to be grudgingly leaning toward accepting an agreement that would head off a threatened second government shutdown but provide just a fraction of the money he’s been demanding for his Mexican border wall.
Trump said Tuesday he would need more time to study the plan, but he also declared that he was not expecting another shutdown this weekend when funding for parts of the government would run out. He also strongly signaled he planned to scrounge up additional dollars for the wall by raiding other federal coffers to deliver on the signature promise of his presidential campaign.
“I can’t say I’m happy. I can’t say I’m thrilled,” Trump said of the proposed deal. “But the wall is getting built, regardless. It doesn’t matter because we’re doing other things beyond what we’re talking about here.”
Trump sounded more conciliatory in a Tuesday night tweet, thanking “all Republicans for the work you have done in dealing with the Radical Left on Border Security.”
Accepting the deal, worked out by congressional negotiators from both parties, would be a disappointment for a president who has repeatedly insisted he needs $5.7 billion for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, saying the project is paramount for national security. Trump turned down a similar deal in December, forcing the 35-day partial shutdown that left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks and Republicans reeling. There is little appetite in Washington for a repeat.
Lawmakers tentatively agreed to a deal that would provide nearly $1.4 billion for border barriers and keep the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. Filling in the details has taken some time, as is typical, and aides reported Wednesday that the measure had hit some snags, though they doubted they would prove fatal.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the bill-writers were “still tinkering” with the legislation’s language and that the president was awaiting a final version.
“We want to see the final piece of legislation, and we’ll make a determination at that point,” she said Wednesday.
Still, she said that, while “the president isn’t fully happy” with everything in the bill, “there are some positive pieces of it.”
Trump has made clear in phone calls since the deal was announced that he had wanted more money for the wall. And he has expressed concern the plan is being spun as a defeat for him in the media, according to a Republican familiar with the president’s interactions but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. Still, many expected him to sign on nonetheless.
The agreement would allow 55 miles (88 kilometers) of new fencing — constructed using existing designs such as metal slats— but far less than the 215 miles (345 kilometers) the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
Full details were not expected to be released until later Wednesday as lawmakers worked to translate their verbal agreement into legislation. But Republican leaders urged Trump to sign on.
“I hope he signs the bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who joined other GOP leaders in selling it as a necessary compromise that represented a major concession from Democrats.
Lawmakers need to pass some kind of funding bill to avoid another shutdown at midnight Friday and have worked to avoid turning to another short-term bill that would only prolong the border debate.
Speaking at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Trump he didn’t think another shutdown was going to happen, but he also made clear that, if he does sign the deal, he is strongly considering supplementing it by moving money from what he described as less important areas of government.
“We have a lot of money in this country and we’re using some of that money — a small percentage of that money — to build the wall, which we desperately need,” he said.
The White House has long been laying the groundwork for Trump to use executive action to bypass Congress and divert money into wall construction. He could declare a national emergency or invoke other executive authority to tap funds including money set aside for military construction, disaster relief and counterdrug efforts.
Previewing that strategy last week, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said, “We’ll take as much money as you can give us, and then we will go off and find the money someplace else — legally — in order to secure that southern barrier.” He said more than $5.7 billion in available funds had been identified.
McConnell, who had previously said he was troubled by the concept of declaring a national emergency, said Tuesday that Trump “ought to feel free to use whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his effort to secure the border.”
The framework now under consideration contains plenty to anger lawmakers on both the right and left — more border fencing than many Democrats would like and too little for conservative Republicans — but its authors praised it as a genuine compromise that would keep the government open and allow everyone to move on.
Trump was briefed on the plan Tuesday by Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and sounded more optimistic after their discussion.
“Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources,” he tweeted, adding, “Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak!”
A Shelby aide, who was not authorized to describe the conversation by name and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the senator described the wall money in the agreement to Trump as a down payment. Shelby did not ask whether Trump would sign the measure, but Trump told him he would study it.
The aide said the measure contains $22.5 billion for border security programs, including programs run by Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The measure and most of its details have so far been closely held.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer urged Trump to accept the package to avert another shutdown, calling the tentative accord “welcome news.”
But the proposal was met with fury by some on the right, including Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, a close friend of the president, who slammed it as a “garbage compromise.”
And Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, released a scathing statement saying she and others had been “hoodwinked.”
Conservative Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a close ally of the president, said that if Trump does agrees to the deal he could be spared a “conservative uproar because everyone expects executive action to follow.”
“Two things are clear: We will not have a shutdown of the government, and executive action to reprogram additional border security dollars is required,” Meadows said.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.
Immigration: How ancient Rome dealt with the Barbarians at the gate
February 13, 2019
Author: Cavan W. Concannon, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Disclosure statement: Cavan W. Concannon does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
A caravan of Goths – the Thervingi and the Greuthungi – were massing along the Danube river, at the border of the Roman Empire.
This was not an invading army, but men, women, and children fleeing the enemy at their backs: a seemingly invincible army of Huns.
The Goths, a coalition of Germanic tribes that were long foes of the Romans, begged to be admitted to Roman territory. Afraid for their lives, they hoped to find safety on the other side of the river.
The year was 376. What the Romans did in response to the arrival of the Goths would have profound effects on the history of the vast and powerful Roman Empire.
As the United States grapples with a polarizing debate over how to manage and police its southern border, a debate that led to the longest government shutdown in history, American policy makers would do well to understand what happened during this tragic moment in Roman history.
Roman border security was historically effective, not because of massive barriers, but because they knew how to manage the flow of migration.
This flow didn’t lead to the collapse of the empire by marauding Germans. Rather, the flow of migration transformed the Roman Empire into what became medieval society.
Yet the arrival of the Goths in 376 shows what happens when good border policy is ignored.
Ancient Roman border security
To understand how the arrival of these Gothic tribes created a crisis for the late Roman Empire, we have to first start with how the Romans traditionally handled the migration of new tribes into their territory.
The borders of the Roman Empire were constantly in flux and always flexibly managed, owing to the difficulties of policing a huge border without modern technology.
Roman border control rarely made use of massive walls, but depended on natural barriers in the landscape. This was particularly true on the northern border, which heavily relied on the Rhine and Danube rivers. Rome’s borders were gradual transitions more than hard and fast lines.
When migrating tribes asked to be admitted to the empire, the Romans tended to follow a fairly standard policy. Tribes were broken up into smaller groups and sent to underpopulated regions. They were forced to surrender their weapons, renounce their loyalty to their tribal leaders, and commit a certain number of fighting men to the Roman legions.
These policies had served the empire well for centuries. By diluting tribal loyalty and disarming the newcomers, the Romans strengthened their economy, increased tax revenue, and swelled the ranks of the army.
Goths at the border
Let’s return to the Goths waiting on the north side of the Danube. One of our main historical sources about this event is the fourth-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, whose account is used in this description.
According to Ammianus, one of the Gothic tribes (the Thervingi) sent envoys to the eastern Roman Emperor Valens to ask for admission to the empire. They wanted their people to settle in nearby Thrace, adding the promise that they would contribute soldiers to the Roman army.
This offer pleased the emperor and the local population. The Thervingi would offer a strong buffer against other potentially unfriendly tribal groups and would provide soldiers and new tax revenue.
Valens welcomed them to cross over.
That fall, huge numbers of Thervingi crossed the river, which was swollen from recent rains. They made the journey in whatever boats could be found.
At this point, things went badly for the Thervingi. Many died during the dangerous crossing. The Romans allowed more Thervingi to cross than they could supply with food. The local Roman military commanders, Lupicinus and Maximus, withheld supplies the emperor had earmarked for the Thervingi and sold them at massively inflated prices.
Ammianus says the situation became so desperate that even the families of Thervingi chieftains sold their sons into slavery for dog meat.
The Romans saw these migrants from the north as uncivilized and irrational. It is likely that the Roman commanders felt justified in their bad behavior toward the Goths because of Roman prejudice against “barbarians.”
Bad treatment, bad outcome
The Romans ignored all their usual protocols for admitting new tribes into the empire.
For some reason, the newly arrived Thervingi were not forced to hand over their weapons, nor was the tribe broken up into smaller units to be dispersed to different regions. This may have been because the Romans allowed too many Thervingi to cross, leaving Roman military forces vastly outnumbered.
The other Gothic tribe massed at the Danube, the Greuthungi, were in a different position. Valens had rejected their envoys’ request for admission to the empire.
They were as desperate to cross into Roman territory as the Thervingi. Seeing that the Romans were overwhelmed, the Greuthungi crossed the Danube on their own, further to the east.
As conditions among the Thervingi continued to deteriorate, Lupicinus made a desperate play to keep them in line: He invited their leaders, Alavivus and Fritigern, to a dinner party and promptly took them hostage.
When the Thervingi began to riot in response, Fritigern was able to convince Lupicinus to let him go to calm the situation down.
But having gained his freedom, Fritigern reneged on his promise to Lupicinus and mobilized the Thervingi, who then allied themselves with the Greuthungi.
The result was a unified and massive Gothic army that was now loose and armed in Roman territory.
When border policy goes wrong
Thus began six years of war that would devastate the region and leave countless dead, including the Emperor Valens, who died fighting the Goths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378.
The eventual peace brokered with the Goths in 382 by Theodosius I allowed them to settle in Roman territory as a self-governed federation between the Danube and Balkan mountains.
But as an independent state within Roman territory, the Goths never integrated into Roman society and remained a source of political instability.
The failure of Roman border policy in the period leading up to the Battle of Adrianople is a reminder that the forces that drive human migration cannot be stopped with military force or a border wall.
Instead, they require a smart and careful policy that manages the flow rather than trying to hold it back.
The events of 376 are in some ways similar to today.
As political instability persists and the climate continues to warm, more and more migrants will be arriving on the U.S. border.
The Roman policy of resettlement may not be a viable solution to our current immigration debate.
But looking at what went wrong when the Romans ignored what worked for them in the past demonstrates one unsettling consequence of failed border policy.