Here is an excerpt from Julia Preston's article in the New York Times:
"United States law enforcement authorities, seeking to avert a spillover of drug violence from Mexican border cities, are cautiously trying out new cross-border cooperation with the Mexican federal police, according to senior Homeland Security officials. The efforts will include coordinated operations and expanded intelligence sharing. American border and customs agents are working more directly with the Mexican police, the officials said, despite a history of collaboration efforts that were compromised by leaks through Mexican authorities to traffickers and smugglers south of the border. American officials said they had been encouraged to try joint programs because Mexico had shown a new openness to United States assistance and had allowed more direct American involvement in training and background checks of Mexican police officers... While the Border Patrol’s daily planning is based on classified intelligence from many American law enforcement agencies, Mr. Self said, American agents share less secret information with Mexico, identifying the terrain they plan to scout on a given day... Mexico is also sharing some operational intelligence from its agencies, American border officials said... The program does not involve local Mexican police officers from border cities, where drug corruption has reduced some municipal police forces to disarray... Many Border Patrol agents remain wary of working with the Mexican police... Agents know countless stories of intelligence tips shared with Mexican law enforcement, which only served to give traffickers time to get away or to set up ambushes for officers." Link to Full Article
Analysis: As soon as I read this article, my first thought was "uh-oh." Then I decided to look at it a little more deeply, and I'm glad I did. It would be very easy for my to immediately shoot this idea down as naïve and foolhardy, in light of the corruption issues that Mexican law enforcement agencies are plagued with. So, before jumping off the diving board, I decided to contact an associate of mine at USBP to get his experienced opinion on the program.
I was pleased to note that he shared my concerns about the potential (and likely) compromise of sensitive operational information by Mexican law enforcement either in cahoots with or under threat by DTOs. However, he pointed out something very important - that the program involves shared patrols with the Mexican federal police, not the locals. While they still definitely have their internal security problems, they're not as severe as those being experienced by the locals - who are decidedly NOT part of such a program - and are held to a higher standard of accountability to the Mexican government.
I can't identify my associate or where he works because I wanted to get his honest opinion and be able to post it without any negative repercussions. I'm glad I did because he had some very valuable insights. First (and remember, he's not the voice of the whole USBP), he said, "We in the know greatly prefer to work with SEDENA, CISEN, and PGR directly to accomplish important bi-national goals and efforts (and the PFP to a lesser extent), rather than deal with state, local or municipal police agencies for [corruption] reasons." He acknowledged that the federales - and even the federal government - are not immune from corruption and/or undue influence, but we're in agreement that the potential for compromise is much lower at that level than at the local level.
My USBP associate overall was supportive of the initiative, with the strong caveat that US agencies needed to refrain from sharing any operational information that could be exploited by the DTOs, and that bi-national cooperation should ultimately lead to arrest, prosecution, and incarceration - another thing we both agree on.
I don't know if this initiative is on a trial basis, or if this is going to be the new standard that agencies on both sides of the border need to get used to. I have a feeling that if something goes south because US agency information was compromised by dirty federales, we'll both be going it alone once again. I don't think Calderón wants to blow this opportunity, so hopefully he's putting his best, brightest, and cleanest on patrol with our guys.