Reports of two previously unknown border vigilante operations, including one that apparently hires U.S. Marines as paid mercenaries, have surfaced in internal documents from the Arizona Department of Public Safety stolen and released last week by the hacker collective LulzSec.
According to the documents, Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysts warned last April that one of these vigilante groups could present a threat of human rights violations and violence against law enforcement officers.
One of the documents, a report from the interagency HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) Investigative Support Center, reveals that in October 2008, U.S. Border Patrol agents encountered two vigilantes armed with pistols and at least one M4 assault rifle, wearing desert camouflage uniforms.
The men informed the Border Patrol agents that they were members of Blue Lights, a border watch group.
“They stated they were not members of the Minutemen, but paid contract employees who ‘get the job done’ and ‘were not just volunteers,’” according to the HIDTA report. “They possessed valid United States Marine Corps identification cards.”
(As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2006, violent right-wing extremist groups in recent years have stepped up their wartime recruiting of active duty and recently discharged members of the U.S. military.)
According to the HIDTA report, the Marines said their operation was based at the Caballo Loco Ranch, a remote RV park in the high Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona. It has repeatedly served as the base camp or headquarters for Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Patriots’ Border Alliance vigilante operations since 2007.
Once the largest border vigilante organization in the country, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, or MCDC, officially disbanded in March 2010 after being effectively dormant for about a year. More extreme groups seem to be filling the void.
But the hacked Arizona documents include a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report detailing efforts by a more obscure vigilante group called A Concerned Citizen to “bring back the Minutemen lines.”
One operation by A Concerned Citizen was being planned last spring “in support of Governor Jane Brewer’s signing of SB1070 into law and at the opposition of the media’s coverage of the [pro-immigrant] protests in Phoenix,” according to the DHS report.
It noted that A Concerned Citizen members were planning to deliberately camp near well-known drug and human smuggling “load up points” and that organizers were stressing the danger involved along with the need for participants to be prepared to defend themselves.
“The tone of this information is quite unlike that from the MCDC Locked and Loaded Operation,” reads a comment in the report from DHS intelligence analysts. “If this new operation happens, there could be potential for human rights violations and a possibility of violence between armed civilians and smugglers or with law enforcement.”