Case against ex-CIA officer accused of abusing women may collapse because of how federal agents searched his phones

The prosecution’s case against a former CIA officer accused of sexually abusing more than 20 incapacitated women in Mexico City is at risk of collapsing because the Justice and State departments may have botched the execution of a warrant to seize the officer’s iPhones, court records show.

A federal judge is set to hear arguments Thursday about whether nearly 600 photos of the defendant allegedly abusing incapacitated women should be thrown out, in a dispute that could make new law on the question of what constitutes an improper search in the digital age.

The former CIA officer, Brian Jeffrey Raymond, has been held without bail in a Washington, D.C., jail for nearly three years. He made a deal to plead guilty to two counts of sexual abuse in July 2021, admitting in court to preying upon women he met in and outside the U.S. through dating sites even as he carried out his clandestine duties.

But the one-time spy withdrew his plea last year after members of his legal team realized there were significant problems with how the evidence in the case was obtained. In allowing Raymond to change his plea, the federal judge ruled that one of his former defense lawyers had been ineffective in noting major concerns about the manner in which investigators gained access to Raymond’s iPhones. The judge ruled that law enforcement agents may have violated Raymond’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure, and under the Fifth, which says a person can’t be forced to testify against himself.

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The Republican Primary Consensus for Sending the Military Into Mexico

When Sen. Tim Scott (R–S.C.), a comparatively affable chap in the context of contemporary GOP politics, announced his 2024 presidential bid on Monday, the speech was predictably full of the upbeat, anecdotal, ain’t-America-grand stuff that Scott, like generations of Republicans before him, has made central to his political career.

Then things suddenly turned dark.

“When I am president, the drug cartels using Chinese labs and Mexican factories to kill Americans will cease to exist,” Scott vowed. “I will freeze their assets, I will build the wall, and I will allow the world’s greatest military to fight these terrorists. Because that’s exactly what they are.”

Scott’s bellicosity was no mere bolt from the blue. As Reason has been documenting for six years now, Republicans, even while otherwise souring on U.S interventionism abroad, have increasingly concluded that the alarming spike in domestic fentanyl overdoses would best be treated by sending the military into Mexico.

Donald Trump first floated the idea, while he was president, of designating drug cartels as terrorist organizations—thereby allowing for extraterritorial prosecutions, enhanced investigative powers, and increased penalties for domestic drug-related crimes—in March 2019, but held off after the government of Mexico repeatedly objected on grounds of sovereignty while making uncooperative noises about transnational migration policy.

But the appetite for corralling cartels into the otherwise-unpopular war on terror was only beginning to rumble in the conservative belly. Trump himself in the summer of 2020 twice asked then–Defense Secretary Mark Esper whether “we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, quietly,” according to Esper’s 2022 memoir. Notable MAGA politicians Sen. J.D. Vance (R–Ohio) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) have both suggested violent interdiction south of the border, as have a bevy of more traditional hawks. There are a handful of escalatory bills bouncing around Congress.

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Former Mexican president worked for CIA

Former Mexican president Jose Lopez Portillo, who led the country from 1976 to 1982, was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset, according to a new batch of declassified documents published by the US National Archives.

Among the papers, relating to a CIA probe into the murder of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, was a memo from a meeting of CIA agents on November 29, 1976.

In the discussions, US intelligence official Bill Sturbitts informed his colleagues that “Mexico will soon have a new president, a man who has had control of Liaison for a number of years.”

Lopez Portillo was not mentioned by name in the memo, but the meeting took place just a few days before he officially assumed the presidency.

He had run for office earlier that year as the sole candidate from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled the country from 1929 to 2000. Lopez Portillo died in 2004 at the age of 83.

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GOP embraces a new foreign policy: Bomb Mexico to stop fentanyl

A growing number of prominent Republicans are rallying around the idea that to solve the fentanyl crisis, America must bomb it away.

In recent weeks, Donald Trump has discussed sending “special forces” and using “cyber warfare” to target cartel leaders if he’s reelected president and, per Rolling Stone, asked for “battle plans” to strike Mexico. Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) introduced a bill seeking authorization for the use of military force to “put us at war with the cartels.” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said he is open to sending U.S. troops into Mexico to target drug lords even without that nation’s permission. And lawmakers in both chambers have filed legislation to label some cartels as foreign terrorist organizations, a move supported by GOP presidential aspirants.

“We need to start thinking about these groups more like ISIS than we do the mafia,” Waltz, a former Green Beret, said in a short interview.

Not all Republican leaders are behind this approach. John Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser who’s weighing his own presidential run, said unilateral military operations “are not going to solve the problem.” And House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Mike McCaul (R-Texas), for example, is “still evaluating” the AUMF proposal “but has concerns about the immigration implications and the bilateral relationship with Mexico,” per a Republican staff member on the panel.

But the eagerness of some Republicans to openly legislate or embrace the use of the military in Mexico suggests that the idea is taking firmer root inside the party. And it illustrates the ways in which frustration with immigration, drug overdose deaths and antipathy towards China are defining the GOP’s larger foreign policy.

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The growing Chinese investment in illegal American weed

A few days before Christmas, a joint law enforcement task force found nearly 9,000 pounds of cannabis worth almost $15 million during a raid in a suburban neighborhood in Antioch, Calif.

The California Department of Cannabis Control believes that the four houses searched in the bedroom community 45 minutes outside San Francisco were linked to China.

Mexican cartels have a long history of importing, growing and redistributing illicit cannabis in the United States. But Chinese investors, owners and workers have emerged in recent years as a new source of funding and labor for illegal marijuana production.

What is known — from interviews with state law enforcement officials, experts on the international drug trade, economists and lawmakers — is that the number of farms funded by sources traceable back to Chinese investors or owners has skyrocketed. Chinese owners and workers have become a larger presence at illegal grows in Oklahoma, California and Oregon, they say.

In Oklahoma, close to 3,000 of the state’s nearly 7,000 licensed marijuana farms have been flagged for suspicious activity by law enforcement over the last year. Those operations are now being investigated for obtaining their licenses fraudulently and/or for selling into the illicit market, according to Mark Woodward, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

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Inside the Scandal That Took Down the DEA’s ‘Cowboy’ Chief in Mexico

Relations between the U.S. and Mexico were extremely tense when the DEA’s top boss in Mexico City decided to throw himself a birthday party. It was late October of 2020, and Mexico’s president was furious over the DEA’s arrest of a top military general accused of cartel corruption. But at the fiesta, the mood was jovial. There was drinking and food and a mariachi band to entertain the guests.

The attendees included several high-ranking Mexican officials, along with a few bigwigs from other U.S. law enforcement agencies. At least one person left wondering how the host, who was celebrating his 50th birthday, managed to score a taxpayer-funded house so large and outside the zones typically authorized for housing for senior U.S. officials in Mexico City. One person described the house as a “mega-mansion.”

The party was one of several events that contributed to the downfall of regional director Nick Palmeri, who quietly retired from the DEA last year one day before he was due to be fired. Parts of his undoing, including allegedly improper meetings with defense attorneys who represent cartel members, have recently been made public. But there’s far more to the story, including bitter infighting at the highest levels of the DEA, allegedly

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Mexico Becomes First Nation to Admit Harms of Geoengineering, Halts Future Experiments

The Mexican government has announced a moratorium on solar geoengineering experiments following an unauthorized small-scale experiment by a U.S. startup. How will the decision impact the plans of globalists who aim to use geoengineering as a gateway to world governance?

Only weeks ago, Luke Iseman, the CEO of Make Sunsets, the company behind the experiment, announced to the world that he had released two weather balloons filled with reflective sulfur particles as part of publicity stunt meant to spark conversation around the science of geoengineering.

Geoengineering is a controversial science of manipulating the climate for the stated purpose of fighting man-made climate change. There are several types of geoengineering, including Solar Radiation Management (SRM) or solar geoengineering.  Stratospheric aerosol injection, or SAI, is a specific solar geoengineering practice which involves spraying aerosols into the sky in an attempt to deflect the sun’s rays. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is currently developing a five-year research plan on solar geoengineering.

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Cannibalism, Aliens, and Cartels: The Trial of Mexico’s ‘Supercop’ Just Got Weird

In the months leading up to the trial of Genaro García Luna, the highest-ranking Mexican law enforcement official ever to face charges of narco-corruption in the United States, federal prosecutors made it sound like they had a mountain of evidence. Court filings described more than 1.2 million pages of documents, thousands of recordings, and a roster of cooperating witnesses who could potentially testify about delivering multi-million dollar bribes.

But now, with opening arguments in the trial set to start Monday, the high-stakes case hardly seems like a slam dunk. In a ruling handed down Thursday evening, Judge Brian Cogan—who also presided over the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán—delivered a blow the prosecution, restricting some types of evidence from being heard by the jury and revealing the names of several likely cooperating witnesses, some of whom appear to have major credibility issues.

Cogan’s ruling, first reported by VICE News, referenced cooperators (former high-ranking cartel members who cut deals with U.S. prosecutors to testify in exchange for reduced sentences) who were allegedly involved in acts of cannibalism, along with another who has expressed beliefs in aliens, witchcraft, and the Illuminati

The judge also granted a request by the defense to block evidence of García Luna’s “expensive lifestyle” after he left the Mexican government in 2012 and moved to Miami, where he worked as a private security consultant, lived in a waterfront mansion, had access to a yacht, and enjoyed other trappings of luxury. Cogan ruled that prosecutors had so far failed to present any proof that García Luna’s lifestyle was “financed with cartel money.”

García Luna’s attorneys, Cogan said, will be allowed to show the jury photographs of the defendant meeting with high-level U.S. officials during his time leading the Mexican equivalent of the FBI from 2000 to 2006, and later during his tenure as Mexico’s secretary of public security, which ended when he left office in 2012. The defense has said García Luna interacted with former President Barack Obama, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the late Sen. John McCain, along with former directors of the CIA, FBI, and DEA, among others.

On the flipside, Cogan ruled that the defense will not be allowed to tell the jury about all the ways top U.S. officials have publicly praised García Luna over the years. To present that evidence, Cogan said, García Luna would have to call the officials—who are now presumably less effusive in their praise now that he’s under indictment—to “testify as character witnesses,” which would then make them subject to cross-examination by the government.

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‘Humiliated’: Americans detained, fined thousands for using wrong lane at border

Being shackled to a metal bench, left for hours, and then fined thousands of dollars.

Or in the alternative having their car confiscated.

That’s the experience being related by multiple American travelers who have run into a simple problem as they return to the United States through the Mexican border.

It’s all because they pick the wrong lane in which to approach the border. Mostly by accident, they get into the Sentri lane, which is designated only for those travelers who are pre-approved for crossings.

But once in that lane, there is no correction, as concrete barricades keep the travelers there.

Fox News relates that travelers from Los Angeles “are being detained and fined several thousand dollars for using the wrong lane.”

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Gloria Trevi Sex Cult Claims Revived in New Lawsuit

NEARLY TWO DECADES after a judge abruptly cleared pop diva Gloria Trevi of charges she lured minors into a secret sex ring in Mexico, the singer is facing a new civil lawsuit in Los Angeles that revives claims she procured underage girls for her ex-producer Sergio Andrade.

The new complaint, obtained by Rolling Stone, was filed shortly before the Dec. 31 deadline for a three-year “lookback” window that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on childhood sex assault claims in California. Neither Trevi nor Andrade are specifically named in the suit, but it’s clear they’re the top two Doe defendants based on details including concerts Trevi played in the 1990s and albums she recorded.

According to the filing, two Jane Doe plaintiffs allege they were 13 and 15 years old respectively when Trevi approached them in public and lured them into joining Andrade’s purported music training program by promoting it as an elite star-making opportunity. The victims says Trevi groomed them to become sex slaves to Andrade, and that much of their abuse happened in Los Angeles County.

By the time the Jane Does were recruited, Trevi and Andrade already had reached international fame with a series of hits showcasing Trevi’s edgy lyrics and rebellious persona, the lawsuit states. Trevi was dubbed Mexico’s version of Madonna while Andrade was credited as her behind-the-scenes production ace. It would be several years before the once-celebrated duo would seemingly disappear ahead of a flood of sex cult allegations from multiple former protégées. The claims would explode into an international scandal, with Andrade painted as a violent serial pedophile and Trevi his willing accomplice. The two would be arrested in Brazil in January 2000 after an international manhunt.

Trevi, now 54, spent four years in pre-trial detention but was ultimately acquitted when a judge said there was insufficient evidence to support the rape, kidnapping and corruption of minors charges filed against her by Mexican prosecutors. After spending four years awaiting trial, Andrade was convicted of rape, kidnapping and corruption of minors, but ended up spending only one more year behind bars.

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