Guzmán was reapprehended Friday, and the recapture of the drug lord took a surprise, Hollywood-like twist when a Mexican official said security forces located the world's most wanted trafficker thanks to a secret meeting with U.S. actor Sean Penn.
Penn's article about his meeting with Guzmán, who has twice escaped from Mexican maximum security prisons, appeared late Saturday on the website of Rolling Stone magazine. It was purportedly held at an undisclosed hideout in northern Mexico in late 2015, several months before his recapture Friday in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, after six months on the run.
The article reports that Guzmán defends his work at the head of the world's biggest drug trafficking organization. When asked if he is to blame for high addiction rates, he responds: “No, that is false, because the day I don't exist, it's not going to decrease in any way at all. Drug trafficking? That's false.”
A senior Obama administration official told television news shows on Sunday morning that Guzmán's boasting about his heroin empire in the interview was “maddening.”
”One thing I will tell you is that this braggadocious action about how much heroin he sends around the world, including the United States, is maddening,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on CNN's “State of the Union.”
“We see a heroin epidemic, an opioid addiction epidemic, in this country,” he said. “We're going to stay on top of this with our Mexican counterparts until we get that back in the box. But El Chapo's behind bars. That's where he should stay.”
When asked if the United States would make Penn available to Mexican authorities, McDonough responded that he didn't want to get ahead of any possible action but that it “poses a lot of very interesting questions, both for him and for others involved in this ... so-called interview.”
Penn didn’t have to tell law enforcement about his October meeting, according to legal scholars interviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
“He’s under no obligation to inform the authorities that he’s been in touch with El Chapo,” said Robert Weisberg, a professor at Stanford Law School, told the Times.
Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor, compared Penn's legal situation to those of the journalists who conducted interviews with Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents.
Meeting with an interview subject is not against the law. “We don’t have a duty — necessarily — to help the government,” Levenson told the newspaper. “You just can’t get in the way.”