Under normal circumstances, the recently published screed from a group calling itself “Friends of the Border Patrol” would not merit a comment. The so-called report entitled, “Unjustifiable and Impeachable” in print form would, at best, be good as a fire starter to ward off the chill of an early winter. It is seemingly written with an incendiary purpose, and if it had any credibility whatsoever, the flames might just attract a few journalistic “moths” or even congressional investigators. Rightly, it has largely been ignored.

Its only redeeming value, in my opinion, is to serve as proof that in America, fools and idiots have the same First Amendment rights as do serious journalists and legitimate publishers. It is up to us, the citizens, to educate ourselves as to what is believable and what is drivel. Fortunately the report’s author, Andy Ramirez, who lists himself as the FOBP Chairman, makes it relatively easy for us. He makes no effort to be objective and is a lousy writer to boot.

Not content to let the 77 page expurgation fall under its own weight, Ramirez last week went a step further — and that despicable step was to issue a press release personally attacking CBP Commissioner Ralph Basham and CBP Deputy Commissioner Jay Ahern following Ahern’s receipt of the Department of Homeland Security’s highest honor, the Secretary’s Gold Award.

This award is granted by the Secretary in recognition of exceptionally outstanding leadership or service that is distinguished by achievements of national or international significance, reflecting great credit on DHS and the federal government by markedly improving the security of our homeland. There were many DHS employees who might have been chosen, because the Department has many dedicated public servants who work tirelessly to protect our country from bad people and bad things, as Secretary Chertoff likes to say.

That Jay Ahern was selected by a DHS Secretary who does not suffer fools lightly is a testament to the tremendous contribution that Ahern has made. Moreover, the humility with which he accepted the award on behalf of the CBP team he helps lead told me that Ahern is not in government service for personal glory.

Commissioner Basham, who himself exemplifies the best qualities of a public servant, said: “As someone who works beside Jay Ahern every day, I can attest that no one within CBP can surpass his depth of knowledge, dedication to mission, commitment to our work force or grasp of the issues we face today and into the future. In my mind, there can be no more deserving recipient of the Secretary’s Gold Medal.” Basham knows very well the contributions Ahern has made and they are undeniable.

Unfortunately, if you read the poison-filled report of the misnamed “Friends of the Border Patrol,” you won’t find the accomplishments Ahern and CBP have achieved. As an example, during the 2008 fiscal year CBP:

• Apprehended over 1.02 million people at and between our ports of entry.
• Seized more than 2.78 million pounds of narcotics.
• Apprehended more than 200 people with serious criminal records including murder, rape, and child molestation.
• Increased the total number of CBP Officers by 7 percent and agriculture specialists by 5 percent. Border Patrol agent staffing increased by 17 percent, from 14,923 in FY 2007 to 17,499.
• Successfully piloted a field intelligence capability through Intelligence Coordination Teams (ICT) which, when fully deployed, will work with the Intelligence and Operations Coordination Centers (IOCC), to provide CBP and its mission partners an integrated, end-to-end intelligence capability.
• Saw trade volume maintain its historical high with entry counts and revenue collections of just under 31 million entries with $32.5 billion in revenue collections ($27 billion from duty collections.) Import value showed gains to about $2.2 trillion from last fiscal year.
• Made more than 19,000 trade enforcement seizures valued at $351 million. Violations of intellectual property rights (IPR) also totaled 14,700 seizures with a domestic value of more than $267 million. CBP also initiated 471 commercial fraud penalties assessed at $208 million, a slight increase in volume from last year.

Numbers, of course, don’t tell the entire story. But what they DO say is that performance of this nature does not occur by itself. It takes a team of selfless employees, and the contractors who support them, to make it happen. And it takes leaders, like Ahern and Basham, to set the right tone and provide direction and vision, even in the face of daunting obstacles that are present 24/7/365.

The so-called “Friends” group ignores both the FY2008 metrics as well as the positive contributions Ahern has made throughout his career. Instead, he chooses to regurgitate half-truths and repeat outright false allegations from years past to reach the conclusion that Ahern’s award was undeserved. It is sad that the bile flowing from Mr. Ramirez and the organization he heads gets spread through Internet channels to people who might find it believable. It is far easier to taint good people with negativity and allegations of corruption and unethical behavior than it is for good people to overcome those spurious allegations.

John Locke, one of the philosophers whose writing helped shape the thinking of our Founding Fathers, believed that when falsehoods had to compete with truth in the “marketplace of ideas,” truth would win out. The best way for this to occur, he wrote, is to refute falsehoods and negative connotations by challenging them publicly. That is why the recent FOBP attack on Jay Ahern is one that cannot go unanswered.

Andy Ramirez and his group of “Friends” should be ashamed. But people like that don’t have any shame, it seems. The facts rarely interfere with their opinions. They believe any action or statement that helps push their “agenda” is fair game. Their research is half-baked, done in an effort to string together dubious data and out-of-context authorities.

Some of the most well researched diatribes I have read are from “jail house” lawyers who are convinced the judicial system wronged them. Their research, while appearing extensive, is nonetheless completely unpersuasive. They have little to no credibility with people who know the truth. In my opinion, the FOBP is in a similar position. Their extreme rhetoric is just not believable – at least not to me.

Jay Ahern is deserving of the DHS Secretary’s Gold Award. He is someone who cannot be swayed from doing what he believes is right no matter the political heat or pressure from adversaries. A true “friend” would recognize and celebrate his selection – and his service to the nation.

Mr. Ramirez’s kind of friendship should be rejected-it is filled only with “fool’s gold” and, serves as a reminder of the old saw that “with friends like these who needs enemies?”

Secretary Chertoff and Commissioner Basham had it right. Mr. Ramirez and his “Friends” have it wrong. And had they not attempted to trash the reputation of a respected public servant, the FOBP comments would remain characterized for what they are –sound and fury signifying nothing.

David Olive focuses his blogging primarily on the “business of homeland security” — the interaction of the private sector with the Department of Homeland Security and other national security agencies. Read More