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Posted by on Dec 13, 2012 in Breaking News, Law, Politics | 26 comments

ICE Nabs Senate Intern (Conspiracy Theorists Here’s A New One For You)

Senator Robert Menendez

U. S. Senator Robert Menendez was re-elected in November. He got 58% of the vote. But, as conspiracy theorists will soon be telling us, his election was based on a cover-up. A cover-up orchestrated by the Obama administration. Can anyone say impeachment hearings?

Here’s what’s going on. The core story is that a volunteer intern in the Senator’s office was picked up by ICE for being in the country illegally. They were tipped off because the 18 year old had been found responsible for a sex offense as a minor and was a registered sex offender. His name is Luis Abraham Sanchez Zavaleta, though that name does not appear on the sex offender registry.

None of that will matter to the conspiracy theorists. Here’s what will. The Associated Press reports that an unnamed government source…don’t you love unnamed sources…reports that the Department of Homeland Security ordered ICE to wait until after the election to take Sanchez into custody. That would be a department of the Obama administration ordering a sub-agency to delay doing its duty in picking up a registered sex offender, in the country illegally, until after a Democratic senator could be re-elected. Now do you hear the drums of impeachment in the distance?

A source, actually willing to let his name be known, Peter Boorgaard of the Department of Homeland Security called the accusation against DHS “categorically false.” The AP claims their unnamed source is a government official “involved in the case.”

Admittedly, I can’t tell you whether the story of DHS delaying the detention until after the election is true or false. He wasn’t picked up until December 6, so you’d have to ask why they would wait a full month after the election. But no matter, that’s just a question that springs to mind. It won’t stop the calls for a special congressional committee. It won’t stop demands for answers to the usual questions: What did the president know and when did he know it? And, if he didn’t know, why didn’t he? And, who gave the order, and on whose order was the order given and what is that person’s access to the president.

Honestly, I don’t mind the questions being asked. What I mind is that this will consume us for endless gobs of time no matter what the truthful answers appear to be. If the president knew and ordered it, he probably should be impeached. It would likely rise to obstruction of justice. But, if he didn’t know, or if Mr. Boorgaard is truthful that the accusation is “categorically false”, it won’t stop the haters and conspiracy theorists from putting on their tin foil hats and finding ants in the pantry with recording devices tied to their little ant legs.

Here’s the AP story . See also, Janet Shan’s story earlier at TMV.

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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • dduck

    Mountain out of a mole hill department.

  • “Mountain out of a mole hill department.”

    Isn’t that what conspiracy theorists thrive on? Remember we’re talking about birthers and truthers and…WAIT…WAIT…what’s that unidentified object flying past my office window? Gotta go! Later.

  • dduck

    Yes, but we need a bigger mole hill than this one.
    How about C. Christie was a Dem mole from way back.

  • Duck,

    Here’s a sampling of a comment from another site. And this is just day one and the comment is from the relatively neutral Politico, not a wingnut, conspiracist site.

    ” ‘The Associated Press reported that the Homeland Security Department instructed immigration agents not to arrest Zavaleta until after the Nov. 6 election, when Menendez won reelection.’

    How is that not your headline, Politico? Yet another example of the slavish Obama media trying to sweep another vile scandal under the rug.”

    I could be wrong, but I see more coming. Has Rush weighed in yet? Hannity? Coulter? We’ll see, but I think the wingers would like to find a distraction, and maybe this could be one.

  • ordinarysparrow

    Ayee…. who is the ‘unnamed source’ going to be? Is it going to be Darrel Issa, Dave Reichert, Eric Cantor, and/or John McCain related?

    Perhaps swiftboating is not working so the next stage is going to be undercover conspiratorial with unnamed sources?..

    Some people’s minds are quick to get trippy and truncated from reality …

  • KP

    Forty years ago, Watergate was a big deal because a President of the United States involved himself in an effort to usurp the Constitution. There was violation of the 4th Amednment. Nixon tried to keep the executive branch unaccountable to the other branches of government; but our system worked. The press did their part and the abuse of power was brought to light. If something illegal happened before the 2012 elections Americans will find out about it. My gut feeling; I don’t think something illegal happened invlolving the President in this case.

  • dduck

    Still in all, it is NJ. 🙂

  • ShannonLeee

    “in this case”

    The other being watergate or the other being something that Obama has done?

  • sheknows

    I’m with Elijah on this. The Republicans will pound this into hamburger for the next few months. ( just when we got done with Susan Rice and Petreaus).

    It just never stops. Now we have an “unnamed source” that crept out of the woodwork to start another round. Is it my imagination, or do these witch hunts seem to pop up just when one died away.

    Ironically, the legitimacy of these charges are made more doubtful simply because of the unrelenting attacks by the right which now, almost comically border on blatant harrassment.

  • adelinesdad

    I think all sides could use less jumping to conclusions. Dismissing this as a conspiracy theory is as bad as saying it was an Obama plot. It’s easy to point to hysterical conspiracy advocates to dismiss this story, but you know the saying about stopped clocks.

    For one thing, most conspiracy theories don’t begin with an AP story. While of course we should have an appropriate level of skepticism toward an unnamed source, the AP is no Fox News or MSNBC and I would think they would not run the story if they didn’t think their source was at least somewhat reliable.

  • sheknows

    The associated press carries news stories from hundreds of sources. They simply report what the latest scuttlebutt is. They are impartial, or supposed to be.
    Now when Fox or MSNBC gets a take on this, then we can say it’s slanted. And we WILL hear from both of them, most especially the former which I believe carried the Rice speculations for about 2 months solid!

  • KP

    @ShannonLee I was thinking of the multiple attacks on President Bush (weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, enhanced interrogation/torture, Valerie Plame, Hatch Act, etc). I guess we could go back to Clinton and discuss Obama as well if you like.

  • A’sDad,

    As I said in the piece,

    “If the president knew and ordered it, he probably should be impeached. It would likely rise to obstruction of justice.”

    But I also agree with sheknows’ comment, “Ironically, the legitimacy of these charges are made more doubtful simply because of the unrelenting attacks by the right.”

    The terrible truth is that the partisan attempts at constant character assassination have reached the-boy-who-cried-wolf status. When a real issue arises, we may not take it seriously because we have become so accustomed to the relentless barrage of baseless assaults that we won’t be able to distinguish the difference.

    EDIT TO ADD: While AP is not FOX or MSNBC, there was a time when sources were either on the record or when information from anonymous sources was confirmed by independent sources. That was the journalistic standard employed by WaPo in Watergate. I see no evidence of those journalistic practices in this AP piece. I’d like to know 1) who this source is, if not by name then by position and opportunity to know, 2) did someone at DHS speak directly to him/her or is this account hearsay, and if so through how many layers of hearsay, 3) does this source have an agenda (political, financial, professional or disgruntlement), 4) how can this account be either confirmed or refuted and 5) is there any history of this source exaggerating, lying or by simple error getting facts wrong?

  • Just a note for anyone interested. Today I have spent some time checking traditionally right wing blogs to see what the comments have to say on this. I’ve seen the word impeachment used a few times, but not many times so far. What I have seen a lot is a sense that “we didn’t get him on Benghazi; maybe this will work.”

    Nobody said it in exactly those words, but that sense-of-the-crowd seemed to permeate much of the discussion on some of the sites. I wish I had counted how many times Benghazi was mentioned in comment threads on the Menendez intern situation.

  • KP

    @ELIJAH — good article, I enjoyed it. As you point out, the left and right are quite predictable. From your recollection, did the left treat Bush similarly?

  • KP,

    Yes, I would agree that this has been the norm since Clinton. That’s when I see the constant attacks beginning. There were some more isolated attacks before, including against Nixon and Reagan. But there were breaks in the personal attacks where Ford, Carter and Bush The Elder were concerned. Not that they weren’t there, but not the intensity or the personal nature.

    With Clinton the attacks became very personal, and accusatory, and have continued regardless of party since. Bush was ravaged for “intentionally lying” to start the Iraq war, particularly about WMD. He was further ravaged about torture. He was constantly harassed as less than intelligent – though I personally think he was “misunderestimated” in that regard :). And let’s not forget the Darth Vader attacks on Dick Cheney. Obama has been attacked as born in Kenya, Muslim (the latest is that he told the Egyptians in a private call that he is secretly Muslim), a socialist, communist, facist, gay or bisexual, that he lied about Benghazi and all the rest.

    People forget, I think the concerted effort to personally destroy Clinton, Bush and Cheney. The same is happening now to Obama…maybe even worse because of the racial undercurrents, but I’ll leave that to the eye of the beholder.

  • dduck

    EJ, I think it may be slightly more vicious now.

  • KP

    EJ, thanks for the follow up. Much appreciated. We see it the same, all the way back to Nixon and Reagan and the break where Ford, Carter and elder Bush are concerned. It has been disappointing for all concerned and one can only hope we see a new era ushered in soon. Things seem to swing back and forth like a pendulum, particularly when each side continues to over reach.

  • The_Ohioan

    I have a question(s). If he violated the law in 2010, why wasn’t he deported then, why wasn’t he on the sex offender list, and who were the “Authorities in Hudson County” who just weeks before the Senator’s election suddenly decided to notify ICE. There may be a conspiracy – or a stunning amount of incompetence. Just askin’ I can’t think of a better ringer than an illegal alien sex offender; especially for a Senator well known for his immigration policy.

    Department heads of federal entities understand dirty politics as well as anyone (Lord knows they see enough of it) and during a campaign, especially a presidential campaign, they have to be aware of such shenanigans and try to mitigate their effect.

    Impeachment requires an elected official’s participation in an illegal activity. There are several dubious activities here starting with the “Hudson County Authorities” and the decisions made by them, by Homeland, and by ICE, but I have yet to see that any elected official is implicated (unless the “Hudson County Authorities” fall into that category. As always, time will tell.

  • adelinesdad


    I hear what you are saying about the “crying wolf” problem. What makes this different, in my mind, is that this doesn’t appear to have originated from a right wing conspiracy hack. At least if it did I wouldn’t expect the AP to run it without confirmation, but you could be right that I’m giving them too much credit.

    Regarding the right wing blogs calling for impeachment, I’m with you there but I think we have to draw a line of separation between what is the truth and what is the response. That there is an irrational and/or premature response does not mean the allegations are not true.

    One last thought: Could there be some value to the conspiracy theorists? If a president does something nefarious at some point (which is certainly not inconceivable given that its happened in the past and we know that power has a tendency to corrupt), how would we most likely come to know about it? Ideally from the press, but as you noted journalistic standards cannot always be relied upon. Isn’t there some value in having an opposing side searching for some point of controversy, even if its for partisan purposes? Wouldn’t any trail of clues that would actually lead to something substantial start out looking like a conspiracy theory? Even if 9 out of 10 are duds, hopefully the people and the press are smart enough to recognize those, and once in a while something actually concerning might be brought to light. And at the very least those in power will be motivated to make sure they avoid even the appearance of evil. I’m in no way endorsing Glenn Beck but I don’t think we should shame Obama’s opponents into ignoring signs of possible misconduct either.

  • A’s Dad,

    We may simply disagree on this. Most of what happens with partisan based conspiracy theorists is, in my view, negative. It ends up looking like McCarthyism far too often. I’m not sure I can think of a situation where it produced good, but I’m willing to be educated if you can remind me of one.

    Was it useful to accuse Bush II of engineering 911 – as the Truthers claimed? Was it useful to accuse the Clintons of murdering Vince Foster? Is it useful to claim that Obama was born in Kenya? How about accusations that Hillary Clinton used inside information in her commodities trading? The private call to the Egyptian government for Obama to declare that he is a secret Muslim? Accusing Reagan of making a deal with the Ayatolla that included not releasing hostages until Reagan won the election?

    At least from my perspective, as I walk through these conspiracy theories in my mind, I’m not finding much that is useful, but I am finding a lot that is destructive and diverts our collective attention from governing for the good and best interests of the country and her people.

    All that said, I’m ok with legitimate investigation. The problem, the boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome fall out, is who conducts an investigation that is considered legitimate. A House committee run by the R’s who want to tarnish Obama? A department of the administration…certain to be accused of whitewashing? I really think sheknows is on to something about our ability to have credible investigations given the recent historical backdrop of partisan attack.

  • There may be a conspiracy – or a stunning amount of incompetence.

    I’m generally of the belief that, while we have some great people who serve at all levels in our local/state/federal governments, this is most likely the case.

  • dduck

    I second that notion.

  • adelinesdad

    Elijah, I may be guilty of using the term “conspiracy theorists” too loosely. The examples you cite are on the extreme end of the spectrum. The kind of issue I’m talking about is where there is some reason to investigate: Benghazi, Fast and Furious, GSA, Libby, Waterboarding, etc. In all of those cases the level of misconduct probably did not rise the level suggested by the partisan rhetoric, but I also wonder if those issues would not have been brought to light to the same extent if they weren’t at least partly fueled by partisans. Obviously the ideal would be to have reasonable, fair, and determined watchdogs, but I’m just not sure you can have that without the fleas that grab hold of them. All I’m suggesting is that in criticizing the fleas we don’t suppress the dogs who might fear being mistaken for them. I think you agree with that. Our main point of disagreement is this, and it is admittedly one of degree and interpretation: I think we are in danger of suppressing the dogs when our concern when a potential issue arises is primarily focused on the fleas.

  • dduck

    Man bites fleas that bite dogs.

  • So we’ve gone from ants in the pantry to fleas suppressing the dog.

    I’m calling the Orkin man.

    Have a great weekend everyone. This has been a really solid and instructive exchange. We’re not as far apart as you think on this, A’s Dad. The odd thing is that I’m the one saying proceed slowly and you’re the one ready to put it into second gear. Do you sense the irony of a role reversal there?

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