Right in DC Podcasts

Eric Caron: Retired US Special Agent and Author of “Switched On”


My guest on RIGHT IN DC is Eric Caron, a former US diplomat and retired US Special Agent. He spent his life successfully conducting and managing covert operations related to national security, transnational crime, terrorism and money laundering. He’s held senior positions within Homeland Security and Interpol. Eric recently released his first book, “Switched On: The Heart and Mind of a Special Agent”.

In our discussion, we talk about:

  • What he thinks about the border wall
  • His answer to critics of the wall who wonder why we need a southern wall as opposed to a northern wall, and what about terrorists who come in to the United States via airplanes/airports.
  • Why we haven’t had another attack like 9/11
  • Why a secure America helps makes the world more secure as well as prosperous
  • Security policy and diplomacy in the Trump administration
  • How the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the media they controlled worked against him (as the left would do years later against Trump) in a major illegal immigration case. Document referenced: https://www.carnegie.org/media/filer_public/6d/8e/6d8e9f25-d247-4d5b-b80c-25b9cd512ada/ccny_report_2007_mass.pdf
  • His advice to young people thinking about going into law enforcement
  • The core principles of being “switched on”
  • Nexus between crime and terrorism
  • The problem of visa “over-stays”
  • Why President Trump will win again

MORE

https://switchedonlife.com/
https://www.facebook.com/switchedonagent/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC77xOpY1ymogyfcdlimlVCA
https://www.instagram.com/switchedonlife/
https://www.amazon.com/Switched-Heart-Mind-Special-Agent/dp/145756243X

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TRANSCRIPT

Gayle Trotter

Today, our guest is Eric Caron. He is a former U.S. Diplomat and U.S. Special Agent. He spent his life successfully conducting and managing covert operations related to national security, transnational crime, terrorism, and money laundering. He’s held senior positions within Homeland Security and INTERPOL. Eric recently released his first book, Switched on: The Heart and Mind of a Special Agent.

Eric, thank you so much for joining us today.

Eric Caron

Gayle, it’s an honor to be on your show. Thank you so much for having me.

GT

We have been in the grips in the nation, and particularly in D.C., with President Trump’s promise to build the wall. We saw him go down recently to El Paso and give a speech to his supporters and, truly to the nation, talking about the dangers of the lack of secure border controls at our southern border. This is something that has been portrayed in the media as a fool’s errand or something that won’t work or something that is immoral and inimical to the American Dream.

What say you to that?

EC

Gayle, it’s an important topic. Border security is national security. Period. Full stop. This president recognizes that, and he recognizes that the U.S. government, quite frankly, failed on 9/11. It failed to protect us, and he sees the intelligence every day just like I did. That the threat is real. This is not just made up. Transnational criminal groups are operating around the world and here in the U.S.

Terrorist groups are operating around the world and here in the U.S. He sees that threat. He wants to stop it before it happens again. It’s an important topic that we, as a nation, need to understand. We do not want to become a Mexico or a Venezuela and without border security we possibly could.

GT

Criticism of this approach has been that we do not advocate putting a wall on our northern border, and if we don’t want to do that then there must be something wrong with the proposition that we should put a wall on our southern border. You have vast experience in assessing threats from all these different transnational organizations that are criminal enterprises and want to do harm to Americans and profit off illegal enterprises. What is your assessment of why a southern wall and not a northern wall, for example?

EC

It’s a good question. We’re always doing assessments. The national security folks are always looking at the threat level. Quite frankly, we see the onslaught of Central and South Americans coming through those ports of entry on our southern border versus the northern border is not as great. The same thing relates to the flow of commerce and illegal contraband, if you will, coming through that southern border versus the northern border. People and goods are being assessed and the threat levels is being assessed. The professionals on the ground have assessed that the threat level, if you will, is not as great because of the amount of trade and people coming through those ports of entry, northern border versus the southern border.

 

We know that most of the drugs coming into America are coming through our southern border, not our northern border. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen, but I’m talking large shipments. We’re talking thousands and thousands of kilos of cocaine and other drugs. We’re talking thousands and thousands of people coming through the southern border versus the northern border. We’re looking at where do we get our biggest bang for the buck? We don’t have endless amounts of money. We don’t have endless amounts of personnel. We are constantly assessing that threat level.

Maybe, quite frankly, five years from now we may want additional personnel on the northern border and equipment, but right now the professionals are saying that threat is the southern border based on what they’re seeing over the last five years, ten years.

GT

That’s a great response. You’re really keying into the fact that there is a cost benefit analysis being done and given the volume of traffic over the southern border, that just dwarfs the volume of traffic over the northern border. You need to allocate your very limited resources, and apparently our government in D.C. doesn’t think we have limited resources, but, clearly, we do, we need to target the area that has the highest return on the investment.

EC

Absolutely.

GT

I am interested, you raised the 9/11 attacks, and, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe all of the airplane hijackers came to the U.S. by plane, not through the southern or the northern border, but they flew here from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. That is certainly a criticism that we have heard from opponents of the wall. Another example, the San Bernardino terrorist’s wife, she flew here from Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. I think there has been a caricature in the media of efforts to build the wall and citing terrorism as a concern or a rationale for building the wall. Frequently, the argument on the other side is that those terrorists, particularly the Islamist terrorists, are using airplanes and visa overstays rather than crawling across the southern border.

EC

Gayle, it’s a good point you make. That’s why the wall, quite frankly, is part of a larger strategic program. It’s not just our land borders that we need to beef up and control, it’s our airports as well. That’s why we have a fence around our airports. It’s a port of entry, as well, in many cases. Those are land borders at our airports. We have land borders, we have airports, we have seaports, all those ports of entry need to be controlled. A country that does not control its borders will fail to exist. Period. The threat is unbelievably high, that we need to understand that our joint terrorism task forces every day, which I was a part of, and I ran, is working overtime to protect you and me, because the threat has not gone away.

GT

Have we just been lucky that we have not had another 9/11-level attack? We definitely have had other terroristic attempts and certainly there have been many overseas of Americans and international people, as well, who are caught up in these targeted attacks, I would say, on Western interests or Americans. Clearly, we want to give credit to the very hard-working people that you were in contact with, you were supervising, but with your expert knowledge and opinion, reflect on this, being a little bit removed from it now, do you think we’ve just been lucky that we haven’t had another attack of that scale?

EC

I think a little bit of both. I think we’ve been very blessed. We’ve prevented some attacks, as you know, in the last decade. There have been multiple bad guys that we have arrested prior to them taking action. That’s good. We’ve been lucky in that respect. We need a little bit of luck in this game because we have rules and laws that we have to play by. The bad guys have no rules and laws. We’ve been very fortunate.

Rest assured, Gayle, and this is not to obviously scare anybody or intimidate anybody, but these terrorist groups are planning every day to attack us. That’s just the bottom line. We have to understand the threat is real. This is not made up for whatever political reasons. The threat is real. There are terrorist attacks every day throughout the world. Americans, just because they’re busy with their daily lives and providing for their families, they’re not looking at Africa. They’re not looking at what’s going on in the Middle East. Rest assured that what happens overseas, not too far away, affects us at home.

GT

Right. The federal government, the organizations that you were a part of, you all are monitoring those situations in real time, right?

EC

Absolutely. Every day, real-time, I was the attaché in Dubai for Homeland Security, and covering Oman, as well as Iran, from Dubai and the threat in that region is high. It’s ongoing. Every day we have personnel working 24/7 domestically, internationally, and to try to keep it safe. Part of that, again, part of that strategic, our game plan, if you will, is to make sure we control who comes into our country. That wall will prevent some bad guys from coming into our country and bad things from coming into our country.

GT

Proponents of the wall frequently talk about the fact that if we can control our border better, then we are better able to ensure that our citizens are safer and to promote a more peaceful society in the American homeland. I was reading some of your material and you make the argument that it not only helps American security, it also helps world and international security. Can you explain that a little bit?

EC

Sure. Globalization is a beautiful thing. We’re all connected, as you know now, in the last 30, 40 years. We’re able to trade with one another, freely. We’re able to communicate. We’re able to travel. That’s all great because that’s great for business, as you can imagine, and great for nations who want to increase their tourism.

A country that has no security or very little security, is a failed state. If you’re a failed state, no one wants to invest in your country. Nobody wants to live in your country. That’s why countries around the world, such as Switzerland, Australia, Dubai they’re prospering, because they understand that if you want to prosper, first and foremost, you need security. That’s why they’re prospering and that’s why under this president, he is making America great again. Because he understands, for us to prosper and grow we need security, number one.

GT

You have experience in diplomacy as well. I am curious, there has been so much criticism of this administration about its interactions with China and Russia and trying to make our NATO allies pay more towards their security, and he’s been criticized a lot and his advisers have been criticized a lot for this. Do you think one can walk and chew gum at the same time? Do you think that this administration is able to definitely change some of the relationships that America is on the losing end of or have been unbalanced in the past, yet, at the same time, have a strong American presence that enables us to enhance our security and avoid some of these? When you were working, it was not only the terrorism, but also, obviously, the transnational crime elements? You’re having to deal with very bad people who are motivated by very different reasons. Do you think the administration can do both things at the same time in a way that, I would argue, has not truly been done in many of the last presidencies?

EC

Correct. It’s a great question, Gayle. I agree exactly with what you’re saying. There has to be a carrot and stick approach to our security and to dealing with foreign nations. We have to show strength and, quite frankly, we have to show these countries around the world that we are going to take the lead, if you will, on terrorism and on our security. We’re seeking their cooperation. We ask for the cooperation. Quite frankly, if they don’t provide that type of cooperation that we need in this global war on terror and crime, there will be consequences.

I think, quite frankly, the Obama administration, what happened in Egypt and other parts of the world, look at that. Look what happened when we stood back. We basically said, “You got it and we don’t really care about your situation.”  So look at Egypt for a second. Egypt is in dire straits right now. Some of that stems from the Obama administration and their policy.

GT

Right. I think when you look at perhaps the Green Revolution of Iran in 2009, and the Arab Spring and the response to that, that was a really eye-opening moment to see what the foreign policy approach of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, what that would lead to. When you talk about failed states, I feel like we don’t have enough media reporting on things like Libya and North Africa and —

EC

Iran.

GT

— it certainly, Iran, and I think you’re right, Americans are really busy and have jobs and families and need to focus on making sure their communities are safe, but I do believe the media are doing us a disservice by not explaining how these failed states impact the security of our own communities.

EC

At one time, as you know, the media was the fourth branch of government, and making sure the other three were doing a good job and playing by the rules and what have you, but it’s not that way right now. In some cases, and I’ve experienced this personally, the media colluded with the Massachusetts immigration advocacy group in a case that I was involved in and they basically told lies.

On my website, www.switchedonlife.com, I have a document on that website from the Carnegie Corporation and they outline how this Massachusetts Immigration Advocacy Group controlled, not only the politicians, Senator Kennedy and Kerry and Deval Patrick, they controlled the media and they fed the media lies and the media ran stories that were just made up. This case involved a U.S. defense contractor that I was investigating, and we arrested 361 illegal aliens at a U.S. defense contractor and three, four, criminal arrests at the time. This was in 2007. What happened during that case, was the Massachusetts Immigration Advocacy Group conspired, if you will, with the media and the liberal politicians that I mentioned, and they demonized me. There were rallies. They were calling for congressional hearings. There were congressional hearings at the state level and at the federal level. What’s happened to the president happened to me in 2007.

GT

It’s an old playbook.

EC

What they said was we ripped babies away from mother’s breasts and babies were forced to go to the hospital because they were dehydrated. Guess what? We didn’t find a baby.

I can understand personally, Gayle, I could understand that MS-13 death threats that I received, but I couldn’t understand how these liberal politicians all came out and attacked me and the people, men and women of law enforcement, for doing our jobs, enforcing the law, that they made.

GT

Do you think law enforcement is happy that they have someone in the White House who is their advocate and appreciative of the sacrifices and efforts that they make?

EC

Absolutely. Absolutely, Gayle. I dedicated my book to my father, to my twin brother, and to all men and women of law enforcement, all LEOs out there. Think about this for a second, Gayle. These people don’t know you or me from a hole in the wall, risk their lives every day for you and for me, and they don’t get the respect or honor they deserve from our politicians in the past and it’s a shame.

GT

Your book is about being a special agent and I am curious, this show is based in D.C., where a lot of our agents come for training. We have Quantico, which is the Marine base, not too far, just about an hour and half down the road from D.C. where a lot of the training is done for some of these fantastic people whose names you will never know but keep us all safe.

I’m curious what advice would you give for young people who are interested in learning about becoming a special agent and would you do it all over again?

EC

Yes. Great question. I would do it all over again. First and foremost, being switched on, you need a good foundation, first, to operate in life. So the foundation of being switched on and making good decisions to see where you’re going, even in darkness. I learned this through my dad who was a shoeshine boy in the 1940s, who went on to become a marine. He taught me really early, strengthen the mind through education. It’s your ticket to life’s party, without it you’re not getting in. Period. Strengthen the soul through faith, because you’re going to need that on those dark and challenging days of life. Strengthen the body through eat, sleep, and exercise. Those are the basic core principles of being switched on.

For kids out there, you need those basic principles, to help you make those good decisions of life, because if you’re not switched on, you will find life very challenging. You need these basic principles to help you make good decisions. I say to kids, “Stay in school. Follow your dreams.” I grew up fairly poor. I’m one of seven.

GT

God bless you.

EC

My dad was a cop working two or three jobs to provide for seven kids and I talk about what that was like in my book. My book is part memoir, part a little self-help, and then I sprinkle in my war stories. I tell kids, “Get out there. Stay in school, follow your dreams and you too can become that special agent or diplomat.”

GT

Which did you prefer, being a special agent or a diplomat?

EC

Both. Overseas, you’re representing America and I was very proud to do that. I would attend meetings with a host nation, Oman or in the United Arab Emirates, and I very much felt like an Olympian walking into the arena. It was a proud moment to represent America at these various meetings that I attended, policy meetings. I also dealt with host nations on enforcement issues. Where we helped one another solve crime. That was very satisfying as well. So both, they were both very challenging but both very rewarding.

GT

Do you think, based on your experience, that terrorism will always be with us and this is something we will always need to proactively combat?

EC

Absolutely. Gayle, the threat is not going away anytime soon. We’re talking the hatred, as you know, that parts of the Middle East have against our Jewish friends, is very deep and it’s been going on for thousands of years. We support Israel. We will always support Israel. Because of that, we’re seen as bad as well. The threat from terror around the world and domestically will go on for a very, very long time. It’s not going away.

We also have to recognize the fact that transnational criminal groups and terror groups, sometimes, not always, work together and collude and support one another. Certainly, terrorist groups around the world are involved in criminal acts, such as human trafficking, artifact smuggling, kidnapping, drug smuggling, because they need to raise funds for their ideology, for their lifestyle, for their terror acts, they need weapons. We’ve seen many cases where terrorist groups raise funds to support themselves and they raise funds through criminal acts.

GT

They’re not having bake sales, correct?

EC

Correct.

GT

I think when young people think about this and are trying to decide what to do with their lives, what’s meaningful, I think in some respects they have to rise above a lot of the criticism for the effort to try and make sure that America is safe, and America’s ideals are continuing to be promulgated. I think we have seen that in a very stark way in this administration where efforts to build the wall, efforts to increase border security, efforts to screen people better, particularly what is called “the travel ban,” to make sure that we are not allowing people into this country who have ill purposes.

Particularly in these countries that you’re talking about, that were part of this travel ban, where we don’t have the information. Even if the government was cooperative, they don’t have the information because they don’t have the infrastructure, they don’t have the record keeping; they don’t have access to the records. I think we’re seeing a lot of charges of racism or bigotry, pick your insult of the day.

I’m curious what you would tell young people who may have a call or an inclination to do that but feel like this opprobrium heaped on this community is holding them back a little bit.

EC

Again, it’s about being fair and balanced in our approach. You referenced basically the visa security programs that we have around the world and I was part of that program. Part of my responsibility along with many other programs, was to make sure — people, we welcome everybody in America, just like the president said, “We want people to come but you have to come legally and lawfully.” We want to increase the amount of visas we issue overseas, but we have to make sure these people are who they say they are and not criminals and that’s important.

We have to make sure that when they do come here, they leave, and they’re not ghosts. Then we ask ICE to go out and find these people. We don’t have a proper exit control in place right now because President Obama failed to input in place the exit controls in place. We have to make sure that we welcome everybody, but when you come to America, when your visa is up, you must leave.

That’s why Dubai and many of the countries around the world that are prospering, do not have a visa overstay issue. As you know, several of those 9/11 hijackers were here as overstays. They should never have been here. They should have left. But because we do not have a good tracking system in place, they stayed.

GT

You think that would be worth the budgetary investment to create a better system for that, and it might prevent some harms that otherwise we are subject to?

EC

Absolutely. Absolutely. We have to know who is in our country. We have to know who is not here lawfully. If you come here as a visitor, you come here as a visitor, we welcome everybody. You have 30 days, you have 60 days, whatever your visa days amount are, but you must leave, and you can’t work if you’re not on a visa to work. If you’re student, you come as a student, not as a worker. It’s just, again, we just have to know who is coming to America. What is coming into America?

That’s why, in many countries, we have a container security initiative program. Again, after 9/11, we pushed the border out as far as we could. That’s why we have agents overseas working with host nations to screen suspect containers coming to America. That’s why we screen visitors coming to America as far out as we can at our embassies, prior to them getting on a plane.

GT

That is great. Do you think President Trump is going to win this epic battle with Congress and with the media on their side and Hollywood and all of academia? Do you think he will ultimately win the battle to put more border security to protect Americans and, as you said, to increase world security as well?

EC

You know what? I do. I’ve seen, and I’m sure you’ve seen it, you’ve felt it. The tide is changing. I think Americans are just tired of these liberal politicians who do nothing but talk and don’t produce anything for their families. This president is determined to keep us safe, one, because that’s the number one priority. Determined to make America great again as it relates to our economic. That’s why people in general are getting behind this president, because he has reassured them, “I’m going to watch your back.” If you’re living in Chicago, these last six, ten years, you’re not feeling very safe. I can tell you, I have friends in Chicago, Chicago PD, and I occasionally listen to the Chicago PD scanner at night, do yourself a favor at midnight on a Friday night, listen to Chicago PD, and all you hear is, “Shots fired. Shots fired. Shots fired. We have a rape in progress. We have a carjacking.” It is the wild wild west — Chicago PD on a Friday night.

This president, I’ll put money on the table, Gayle, he’ll get reelected. No doubt in my mind that he will become, once again, our president. People want safety. They want jobs. This president is willing to do both and these liberal politicians, all they’ve done for us is make us unsafe and taking jobs away from our inner cities, as the president said. Our mill industry? It’s gone.

GT

I so appreciate this conversation, Eric. Where can people find you online to follow up on this and where can they find your book?

EC

Gayle, it’s an honor to be on with you. I really appreciate the opportunity to share some of this with you. Again, I’ve dedicated my book Switched On: The Heart and Mind of a Special Agent to all LEOs out there, because they just don’t get the respect that they deserve.

If people want more information about me, and to purchase the book, go to www.switchedonlife.com and I have a lot of information there about myself and articles about security and the president. At one time, the president was questioning the intelligence he was getting and there was a big hoopla over that. I wrote an article and the local newspaper here in Massachusetts picked it up and ran it. I was very proud to share the fact that intelligence is not a science, it’s an art and it’s perfectly fine, in fact, the president should be questioning his intelligence. There are many articles on my website and it includes this Carnegie Corporation document that is, quite frankly, riveting.

GT

I can’t wait to share this with everyone. Thank you so much Eric for joining us today.

EC

Gayle, I hope to be back on. Thank you so much.

GT

This is Gayle Trotter. You can like me on Facebook. You can follow me on Twitter. You can follow me on Instagram. You can subscribe to my podcast on iTunes. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel. You can support this podcast on Patreon. We have some really cool shirts for you to check out. I’d like to have a special thank you to Trio Caliente for the fabulous music at the beginning of our show. This is Right in DC.

About the author

Gayle Trotter

Gayle Trotter is an attorney, political analyst and columnist who regularly appears on TV, such as Fox News, contributes to The Hill, The Daily Caller, Townhall and other well-known political websites, and is a frequent guest on radio shows across the country providing an insider’s view of Washington, DC. Read More