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You SAY YOU’VE DEVELOPED A CNEAPM AIRBORNE 51Auautgcx OCCURRENT 114AT WILL Br JUST A5 EFFECTIVE AS The wo MILLION AEROSTAT RADAR BALLOON SYSTEM. UN LET YOU HAVE ‘Mese DIES FoR ONLY 42 rAILLioN EACH. 47, GARY OLIVER Today, retiring members of the armed services must compete for lower-level management jobs that carry less responsibility and much less pay. Government Executive Magazine recently pointed out that a 43-year-old colonel with 22 years experience makes about $80,000 a year. Army and Air Force captains with 10 years experience are pulling down $48,000. By contrast, the national median salary for managers ranges from $32,000 for public admin istrators to $41,000 for purchasing managers. There could be other changes. Arkansas’ Pryor, for one, leads a task force that reports not to Nunn but directly to Majority Leader George Mitchell on converting the military to a peacetime economy, and he already has made tiny practical bridgeheads, providing increased retirement benefits, sabbaticals, and other economic incentives to military personnel who take up jobs in the civilian economy as teachers or in health care. Last week, together with Oklahoma’s Sen. David Boren, he reintroduced the Civilian Community Corp., which would employ outgoing military personnel and shut down bases for retraining and other social purposes in the economy. In one way or another, Pryor’s initiatives are bound to find a connection with Clinton’s promise to create a National Service Corps and some sort of federally backed force of neighborhood beat cops. JOURNAL What Happened to the Drug War? Money ALPINE West Texas aficionados eagerly anticipated “What Happened to the Drug War,” a report on the Public Broadcasting System’s “Frontline” program the evening of February 2. Even before we could settle in front of the tube for the scheduled 10 p.m. broadcast, the calls started coming in. “Just great,” a friend called from south of Alpine at 4:30 p.m. \(He got it off the satel “How exciting,” she said. Sure enough, WGBH-TV, the Boston PBS station which produced the show, rolled the opening credits across spectacular Big Bend scenery and solemnly inquired, “What Happened to the Drug War.” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden promptly appeared on screen and answered, “We’re los ing,” setting the tone for the next hour. The program was eight months in the making. “Frontline”‘ s Jim Gilmore and Joe Rosenbloom made the first of several trips to the Big Bend last summer. They began, predictably enough, with law, enforcement officers, particularly those involved in the December 1991 bust of Presidio County Sheriff Rick Thompson and Robert Chambers, both of whom are now serving life terms in federal prison. Gilmore and Rosenbloom helicoptered over the smuggling routes and sat for hours in Chambers’ honky-tonk haunts around Presidio, filming interviews. “Frontline” even went across the river to Ojinaga with us to interview the gutsy editor of El Sol, Armando Ortega. Then they were gone. Like the tribes of the South Seas cargo cults, we waited around our TVs for the first authoritative report on our remote, isolated area’s hard times. “Frontline” first pictured the magnificent Big Bend and then backed up and framed the U.S.-Mexico border, concentrating on the Texas stretch. In a series of interviews and graphic presentations, “Frontline” deflated one of the most expensive of the Drug War’s initiatives, the aerostat balloon picket line on the southern border. One former Senate investigator, Jack Blum, called the multi-million-dollar program “a boondoggle,” and an expert who had originally favored the project pointed out the balloons are “looking at rocks” with their radar. Most devastating was a “Frontline” flight with a drug smuggler who demonstrated how small aircraft elude the baloon’s radar by low-level flight and mingling with legitimate aircraft. The six balloon sites, at a cost of $18 million each, have not caught a single drug smuggler. From the balloon picket line the film went to the Blackhawk helicopters, manned by Customs agents, who also have yet to catch a drug dealer. And from the helicopters, the film went to the $150,000 “Blue Thunder” speed boats designed to interdict Gulf of Mexico smuggling. The boats were found in Customs’ public relations display at a South Texas fair. One agent described their interdiction effort as “boring holes in the water.” In summary, neither balloons, boats nor helicopters have caught a drug dealer, although they have contributed law-enforcement jobs in South and West Texas. The most surprising revelations, however, were those concerning the smuggling of more than 200 tons of cocaine through El Paso by the Munoz-Tapia families. The smugglers were busted in September 1989 only when a citizen in Los Angeles became suspicious of activity around a warehouse where 20 tons of cocaine and $12 million cash were found. The cocaine was traced back to El Paso and Juarez. Though the information was generally known in law enforcement circles, the details broadcast by “Frontline” were previously The Munoz-Tapia family sent the cocaine across the Juarez-El Paso international bridges in hundreds of luxury automobiles. The autos were parked in the huge Cielo Vista mall parking lot, where the cocaine was off-loaded for movement to a safe warehouse in El Paso. The cocaine was then loaded into large trucks and sent off to Los Angeles by a route, first due north of El Paso rather than the more direct route due west via Interstate 10. “Frontline” reported that federal drug enforcement agents had detailed knowledge of the smuggling scheme from an informant almost a year before the Los Angeles bust. “Frontline” also suggested the smugglers bribed U.S. Customs officials for $10-,000 a load. Bush Administration Customs Commissioner Carol Hallett denied the bribe charge. Indeed, she denied most everything throughout the program, as her agency’s disaster after disaster was presented to her. Balloons good. Boats good. “The traffickers are the guerillas,” said Hallett, evoking eerie memories of 25 years ago. “Frontline’s camera returned at program’s end to Candelaria, Texas, where pickups cross the placid Rio Grande, just as Robert Chambers’ truck did on December 3, 1991, with 2,400 pounds of 93 percent pure Colombian cocaine. Deliberately underplaying the point, the camera then rolled onto a busy scene of cop cars, helicopters and a tall, serious-looking law man who drawled in a 1988 public service ad that some viewers should ruin a drug dealer’s day and call the U.S. Customs Hotline. The law man? Who else but former Presidio County Sheriff Rick Thompson, now ensconced in federal prison for his role in smuggling cocaine and marijuana through the Big Bend from 1986 through 1991. What happened to the Drug War? Boodle graft, corruption. Some of them are us. Jack McNamara Jack McNamara, publisher of the Nimby News, a newspaper in Alpine, was interviewed on the “Frontline” report. 16 FEBRUARY 26, 1993