Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Could West Texas Be Home to a Clandestine Naval Training Base?

phickmanfresh/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
A Blackhawk helicopter over Hudspeth County in Texas.

From Texas Standard:

Sheriff Arvin West is the law in Texas’ Hudspeth County. It certainly seems that way to unsuspecting travelers along his county’s stretch of I-10. He’s known for accusing the Mexican army of invading the border, ragging on the federal government on border security policies and busting more than a few entertainers for carrying pot (Willie Nelson, Nelly, Fiona Apple and Snoop Dogg are on the list).

West, now tied to a three-year-long federal investigation, isn’t talking. But a Washington Post report reveals he may be involved in setting up a rogue Navy training based in West Texas.


Craig Whitlock, reporter at the Washington Post, says West has yet to be charged and many of the details in the federal investigation are far from clear.

"What exactly they were up to is kind of a big mystery," Whitlock says, "but it sounds like they went down there to work for him and try and set up some kind of training base in the county.”

Related to West's case is a scheme involving AK-47 silencers. The former director of the Navy intelligence office at the Pentagon, civilian David W. Landersman, allegedly help equip Navy commandos with untraceable silencers. He's now facing federal conspiracy charges. Two of Landersman’s subordinates have said that other than working on intelligence matters, they moonlighted as deputy sheriffs under West. Although there is nothing illegal about working as deputy sheriffs, Whitlock says, the context surrounding the work – what the Navy intelligence was up to – is questionable.

"The reason they first came under investigation is that the civilians in this office were caught making some kind of dodgy law enforcement badges that would enable them to carry weapons around,” Whitlock says. “And NCIS ... did a search warrant on their office at the Pentagon. But as part of that investigation, they found that this small group of civilians at the Pentagon were involved in some kind of secret weapons program.”

Allegedly, the intelligence officers were setting up a type of training camp at Circle Ranch in west Texas, but not much more than that is known. There is speculation, however, that the case might have something to do with counter-narcotics – drug investigations or training people along the border how to look out for Mexican drug gangs. But Whitlock says no one knows for sure.

“A lot of the documentation in the federal investigation has been sealed on national security grounds,” Whitlock says. “This case has been going on in federal courts and a lot of times they have to have sessions in private or they say everything is classified.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
Related Content