Home - Archives 1 - Archives 3

ARCHIVE2 CUSTOMS CORRUPTION

News Alert!
Posted Jan. 21, 2002
By Hans S. Nichols

Customs Service Unveils Strategy to Uncover Terrorism Materials

The U.S. Customs Service has more than 2,000 agents and patrols the 301 official points of entry to the United States, putting it on the front line in the war against terrorism. By 10:15 on the morning of the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency was on a "Level 1 Alert" across the country and remains there today.

In a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner laid out his agency's updated strategy to prevent terrorist materials from entry by land, air or sea. Since the largest volume of goods arrive in the United States from global shipping lanes, Bonner is focusing his agency's effort on sea-cargo containers. "Of ever greater concern are the possibilities that international terrorists such as al-Qaeda could smuggle a crude nuclear device in one of the more than 50,000 containers that arrive in the U.S. each day," Bonner warns.

In addition to deploying X-ray technology to detect terrorist weapons at points of entry, customs agents are being dispatched to foreign countries to identify and thwart dangerous cargo and/or passengers before they enter U.S. territory. While this risks complaints by other nations that the United States is trampling on their sovereignty, Bonner insists one of the most efficient ways to prevent future attacks, including those by weapons of mass destruction, is to intercept them before they breach America's zone of security, "when it's already too late."

Bonner's plan is to station customs agents at the top 10 megaports (including Hong Kong and Rotterdam), where nearly one-half of all container trade sets sail. Last year, 5,709,974 shipping containers entered the United States by sea, with only an estimated 2 percent inspected at entry. But Bonner says that in some countries 10-15 percent of containers are scrutinized before they leave for U.S. shores. He thinks "it would be a waste of resources to inspect 100 percent of incoming cargo," explaining that free trade must not be unduly burdened by enhanced screening processes. "In protecting America against a terrorist threat, we are looking not only to save lives; we are looking to save livelihoods."

After Bonner unveiled his new plan, several participants asked if Customs could be relied upon to keep out undesired material, given its sorry record on the drug trade. Despite Bonner's bravado and good intentions, there's little indication the agency will have any more success sealing the border against terrorist weapons. Even so, Bonner intends to follow the same protocols because "the system works the same way for a drug shipment as for a potential weapon."

Hardly reassuring, say critics. Last year, U.S. Customs seized 1.79 million pounds of illicit drugs, but narcotics experts agree that a large percentage of U.S.-bound drugs make it into the country. According to law-enforcement specialists, as little as 10 percent of drugs are stopped at the border, with the rest reaching America's heartland.

When asked about the inability to keep illegal drugs from breaching the border, Bonner admitted that there are "some problems," but said he intends to "rely more on our canine friends" to sniff out potential biochemical threats.

Hans S. Nichols is a reporter for Insight.

Customs considers changing inspections on Canadian border

By NEDRA PICKLER
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) ÷ The U.S. Customs Service says itās considering changing its inspection procedures at the Canadian border so that terrorists would be stopped before they cross bridges and tunnels into the United States.

At 13 points of entry along the northern border, people entering the United States are not stopped by U.S. Customs agents until after they cross a bridge or tunnel.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said that could leave those bridges and tunnels vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

Levin has been pushing the U.S. Customs Service and its Canadian counterparts to conduct ćreverse inspections,ä where the two countries would set up stations on opposite sides of the border.

In a letter sent to Levin this week, Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner said that he and Canadian Customs Commissioner Robert Wright have created a working group to study northern border security, including the possibility of reverse inspections.

ćThe Customs Service supports this as a potential option to alleviate cross border congestion and increased security along the northern border,ä Bonner wrote.

Customs spokesman Jim Mitchie said it is not clear whether a reverse inspection system would only be implemented at the 13 bridge and tunnel crossings ÷ located in Michigan, Maine and New York ÷ or at all 129 points of entry along the Canadian border.

Forms of the system are found at a few Canadian airports, but Bonner wrote that expanding it to other points would probably require a change in U.S. and Canadian law so the foreign officials would have the authority to operate in each otherās country.

Levin and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sent Bonner a follow-up letter asking for more details about what changes to the law would be required. The senators said they would work to pass legislation that is necessary.

ćIf we are going to provide the kind of security that most Americans expect, it only makes sense to inspect vehicles before they enter the tunnel or get onto one of our bridges,ä Stabenow said.

Corruption Comment: Could it be that since Customs Corruption started exposing the gaping holes in US-Canadian borders, the "officials" have started actually doing their jobs? 


President wants 24% hike in spending on border security

BY SETH BORENSTEIN
Herald Washington Bureau

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine -- President Bush on Friday proposed increasing federal spending on border security by 24 percent to improve U.S. protection against terrorists without slowing lucrative foreign trade.

``The enemy still wants to hit us,'' the president said. ``Therefore, this nation must do everything in its power to prevent it.''

Bush spoke after touring the Coast Guard cutter Tahoma, docked at Portland's International Marine Terminal. The Tahoma sped to New York harbor after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and patrolled the city's waters until Oct. 22.

The Coast Guard would get a 10 percent increase to $2.9 billion under the president's plan, its first big raise in years. Bush described the service's personnel as ``a fine group of people who don't get nearly as much appreciation from the American people as they should.''

800 NEW INSPECTORS

Under Bush's proposal, the Customs Service, which is responsible for inspecting goods that come into the country, would hire 800 new inspectors to work borders and seaports.

The agency would expand its use of passes to speed routine commerce across borders, and buy more radiation detectors and X-ray machines to inspect containerized cargo.

Shipping containers that arrive in U.S. ports and are put on trucks or railroad cars without being opened are a special inspection problem, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said earlier this week. A department panel hopes to devise a new security plan for these containers by Feb. 1.

`SEAMLESS' BORDER

Overall, federal spending to assure what the White House called ``a seamless air, land and sea border'' would rise from $8.6 billion to $10.7 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 under Bush's proposal. The increases, which Congress is likely to endorse or raise, include more money for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service and the Department of Agriculture's food inspection unit.

New money for border protection is part of the president's homeland security buildup from $19.5 billion this fiscal year to $37.7 billion in 2003. All U.S. counterterrorism initiatives would expand.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, traveling with the president, acknowledged that better border security entailed a difficult balance: ``Our air, land and sea borders must be open and welcoming, as well as safe and efficient.''

The United States has a 7,500-mile land border and 12,383 miles of coastline. Each year more than 500 million people enter the country, 330 million of them noncitizens. Also entering are 11.2 million trucks, 2.2 million rail cars and 7,500 foreign-flag ships.

Randall Larsen, director of the ANSER Institute of Homeland Security in Arlington, Va., a counterterrorism research center, agreed with Ridge.

``We have coming into this country $870 billion worth of trade that comes through 361 ports,'' Larsen said.

``How can we possibly check that stuff and yet not shut down the global economy?''

MORE TO INS

The INS, long criticized for lax enforcement, would get $1.2 billion to create a new entry-exit system to track visitors and to hire more people, especially along the Canadian border.

According to the president, 40 percent of illegal immigrants enter the United States legally but overstay their tourist, work or student visas.

INS agents need ``to find that 40 percent to make sure they are not part of some al Qaeda network that wants to hit the United States,'' Bush said.

The Agriculture Department's food inspection unit would get an additional $14 million to inspect shipments of imported food for terrorist tampering.

The president's plan also would expand the Coast Guard's role. Its crews would track all ships in U.S. waters and guard potential coastal targets of terrorism, such as nuclear power plants and oil refineries.

``We must make sure that our Coast Guard has got a modern fleet of vessels,'' Bush said at Southern Maine Technical College, a few miles from the airport where terrorist leader Mohammed Atta boarded the first leg of the flight that ended in the attack on the World Trade Center. ``We must make sure that port security is as strong as possible.''


An Anonymous Letter To CustomsCorruption.com

Here is the text of a letter that was mailed to me anonymously from Texas regarding a recent change in I.A. personnel. There was no return address and it was assumed that the writer wanted to be protected for obvious reasons. The quote is printed in it's entirety without misspelled words or vulgarity.

It is the policy of this investigative newsletter that everyone have the opportunity to voice their opinions about Customs and it's policies. We do respect the rights of everyone to be "anonymous" for safety reasons.
 
Anyone wishing to comment on this letter is welcome.
  
  Quote:
 
" Mr. Carman, it seems that all the reports to the O.I.G., O.S.C., L.U.L.A.C., the media in San Antonio, TX and of course your excellent web site has finally turned some heads from Washington, D.C.
 
We have heard that the corrupt Customs I.A.unit in McAllen, Texas was recently disbanded.
 
Those corrupt "C***k s*****s" sat on SCI(Supervisory Customs Inspector) Janet Neeley's case which involved 18 counts of false TECS records for two years which are all on your web site. 
 
We are now hearing that this evil person will now soon get hers. There were also some very serious cover-ups involving "code three" parties. Parties which included bribes from "code three" in the forms of very expensive watches and diamond rings. Of course Neeley(sp) was also there to take part in these
bribes which involved large sums of money. 
 
We will be waiting for her termination from Customs.
 
Keep up the good fight!
 
signed,
 
(blank)

CUSTOMS

CUSTOMS HOUSE IN NEED OF CLEANING Tick them off - bribery, smuggling, theft, conspiracy, assault - and you have a litany of corruptions that Americans long have associated with life in the badlands south of the U.S.-Mexico border. But increasingly, driven by drug dealing and dollars, similar kinds of corruption also are being found north of that 2,000-mile boundary, perpetrated by our homegrown version of the dreaded federales, who sometimes wear the badges of the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs Service or U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS. All three have been racked by an upswing in corruption cases in recent years. But the Customs Service has come in for special scrutiny lately, following a report from the General Accounting Office, or GAO, another by the Department of Treasury's Inspector General and a series of Senate Finance Committee oversight hearings that, while not dwelling exclusively on the negatives, hardly could avoid them altogether. After reviewing 28 convictions of INS and Customs employees for drug-related corruption between 1992 and 1997, GAO in part blamed the rot on the slowness of both agencies to respond to the growing threat, as well as the lack of serious attention they paid to integrity procedures, background reinvestigations and training. Then, several weeks ago, Treasury's inspector general reported that Customs' internal-affairs office failed to consistently investigate complaints and lacked proper supervisory review. When misconduct was substantiated, "disciplinary penalties were inconsistently applied," often due to cronyism, according to the report. This caused fear of reprisal in officers who considered making allegations against colleagues. Internal-affairs officers at Customs referred only 53 percent of such allegations to management for review. Of those, 71 percent of the cases resulted in some sanction. During oversight hearings, Vincent Parolisi - a former internal-affairs officer with New York City police, recently brought in by reformist Customs Commissioner Ray Kelly to help clean house - told senators that his initial impression is that Customs' internal-affairs office has been "more reactionary than proactive in combating corruption." Parolisi said, "The most formidable corruption threat facing Customs is the illegal drug trade." Drug trafficking also was cited by a Finance Committee analysis as the primary catalyst behind the rising tide of corruption, which resulted in a tripling of corruption allegations against Customs Service officers between 1996 and 1998. The analysis found no evidence of "systemic" corruption inside Customs, though accusations of official misconduct and criminal wrongdoing rose from 209 in 1996 to 677 in 1998. The most common allegation against Customs officers during those years was bribery, amounting to 8.6 percent of all complaints, according to the analysis. Sexual harassment and misconduct made up 7.2 percent of the complaints, followed by disclosure of confidential information (5.8 percent), assault (4.5 percent) and drug trafficking (3.9 percent). The Customs office in Miami received the most allegations (accounting for 11 percent), followed by El Paso and McAllen, Texas (with 9 percent each). "Misconduct by Customs employees will not be tolerated under my watch," Kelly told the panel. "We want everyone to understand the rules as well as the consequences of any illegal or improper activities." A GREAT BIG EDSEL IN THE SKY Say what, Yergy? The Russian half of the international space station is so noisy, published reports say, that astronauts visiting and eventually working there may have to wear earplugs just to keep the din down to a tolerable roar. In parts of the Zarya capsule, which NASA engineers are retrofitting with internal mufflers, the noise level registers over 72 decibels - about the equivalent of standing beside a busy freeway or 10 feet away from a blaring television set. Aside from its fine Corinthian leather, power windows and optional moon roof, the U.S.-made Unity module, by contrast, offers the relative serenity of just 58 decibels. Astronauts still should be able to hear any warning alarms that go off in Zarya even if their ears are plugged, NASA says - a good thing, given the safety record of Russia's other cosmic Corvair, Mir. Although bad, Zarya reportedly isn't as noisy as the Russian-built service module, scheduled to be launched as the station's living (and, one assumes, sleeping) quarters by year's end. The oft-delayed module also does not meet NASA standards for protection against collision with space debris. Other "bugs" already needing fine tuning aboard the space station include a faulty U.S. communications system and Russian batteries that aren't charging properly. NASA flight director Paul Hill says the station is like a new car - no, he didn't say "lemon" - that needs to go back to the dealership for fine tuning. "Only in this case, it's an extremely complicated car that we can't get our hands on after we threw the thing up into orbit," according to Hill. "We have what we have," said Frank Culbertson, NASA's deputy program manager for space-station operations i sounding a little like the guy who just plunked down his kid's college fund on an Edsel. Is it too late for taxpayers to ask for a warranty on this thing?


PROMIS Trail Leads to Justice

During an eight-month secret investigation in the United States last year by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), two of its top national-security investigators focused their probe on a former high-ranking Justice Department official alleged to have been involved in the theft of the PROMIS computer program. Subsequent modifications of this software are believed to have yielded secret backdoor access allowing widespread computer espionage. In this, the third of a four-part exclusive series, Insight continues to follow Mounties Sean McDade and Randy Buffam as they pursue allegations that Canada's intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have been operating the stolen version of PROMIS and that their most secret computer systems have, as a result, been compromised. Much of the investigation centered on two men - Michael Riconosciuto and Peter Videnieks. The former is a convicted felon who has claimed that he modified a stolen version of the Inslaw-developed PROMIS. The latter is the man fingered by Riconosciuto as a high-ranking Department of Justice official involved in the theft of the software. In Part II of this series (see "The Plot Thickens in PROMIS Affair," Feb. 5), Insight took an in-depth look at Riconosciuto and allegations he has made involving PROMIS and other national and international intrigue, including development of a new line of guns and night-vision goggles and a joint venture between a little-known band of American Indians called the Cabazons and the Wackenhut Corp., an international security firm. Other trails led to government-sanctioned drug deals and claims that another former Justice lawyer was involved with the Cali drug cartel. Riconosciuto's stories had been dismissed by federal investigators, but the RCMP unearthed evidence that gave them credibility. What's more, Insight confirmed that Riconosciuto had provided just such startlingly detailed information to an FBI agent well before it had become publicly known. For the Mounties, whose still-secret investigation continues, each layer they peeled back on Riconosciuto's stories revealed a path to yet more information that might confirm their country's worst fears: that key government computer systems were using stolen software that had been modified to allow complete access for espionage. In a 1991 affidavit to William and Nancy Hamilton, the owners of Inslaw who had developed PROMIS, Riconosciuto not only swore that he put the backdoors into a stolen version of the software but also claimed that Videnieks, the Department of Justice official who in the early 1980s oversaw the PROMIS-software contract, participated in the alleged scheme along with a man named Earl W. Brian. Both men, Riconosciuto swore under penalty of perjury, visited him often at the Cabazon/Wackenhut facilities. As with other Riconosciuto stories, the Mounties looked for confirmation and focused intensely on a U.S. Customs Service internal investigation of Videnieks, a contract specialist who was on loan from Customs. Customs conducted a two-and-a-half-year probe of Videnieks because of suspicion he had committed perjury in 1992 while giving testimony in the trial of Riconosciuto, who had been arrested for drug offenses. In an attempt to enter the federal witness-protection program, Riconosciuto told federal investigators that he was set up on phony charges because of the affidavit he gave the Hamiltons. Videnieks has denied any knowledge of such schemes, the first time in sworn testimony during the Riconosciuto trial in Tacoma, Wash., in January 1992. Asked if he knew either Riconosciuto or Brian, and if he ever had been to the Wackenhut/Cabazon joint venture or heard of it, Videnieks responded, "No, I don't. i No, I don't. i No, I haven't." Customs soon thereafter launched a far-reaching internal-affairs investigation of Videnieks. However, it is allegations of government interference in the Videnieks case and contradictory conclusions about the basic facts in the legal saga surrounding the Hamiltons' allegations of official wrongdoing that the Mounties seem intent on clearing up. For instance, in a January 1988 decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge George Bason (Inslaw, Inc. v. United States of America and the United States Department of Justice), the jurist concluded that Justice Department and unnamed U.S. government officials "engaged in an outrageous, deceitful, fraudulent game of `cat and mouse,' demonstrating contempt for both the law and any principle of fair dealing." These harsh words came at the end of a long trial in which Inslaw had filed for bankruptcy as a result of not being paid for its PROMIS-related work for Justice. This work was, in essence, to establish a computer-software system that could track the status of cases in all U.S. attorneys' offices and federal courts. Justice appealed Bason's ruling and, in November 1989, U.S. District Court Judge William Bryant found in favor of Inslaw, stating: "It is not necessary to duplicate the bankruptcy court's exhaustive findings of fact here. i There is convincing, perhaps compelling, support for the findings set forth by the bankruptcy court i [that] the government acted willfully and fraudulently to obtain property that it was not entitled to under the contract." End of dispute, right? Wrong. For the Hamiltons the case has yet to be resolved since they have not been paid. While the Inslaw case wound its way through the courts, Congress also got into the act in the late 1980s as the House Judiciary Committee launched a far-reaching probe of its own. And in September 1992 it issued a report that forcefully stated that "there appears to be strong evidence, as indicated by the findings in two federal-court proceedings as well as by the committee investigation, that the Department of Justice acted willfully and fraudulently and took, converted and stole Inslaw's ENHANCED PROMIS by trickery, fraud and deceit." The reference to "ENHANCED PROMIS" was to a proprietary version the Hamiltons had developed that they alleged later was stolen by the government. The result of the Judiciary Committee report was that in 1993 Attorney General William Barr appointed Nicholas J. Bua to investigate and prepare a report on the Inslaw matter. The results of this investigation, the Report of Special Counsel Nicholas J. Bua to the Attorney General of the United States Regarding the Allegations of Inslaw Inc., found: "There is no credible evidence to support the allegation that members of DOJ conspired with Earl Brian to obtain or distribute PROMIS software. There is woefully insufficient evidence to support the allegation that DOJ obtained an enhanced version of PROMIS through `fraud, trickery, and deceit' or that DOJ wrongfully distributed PROMIS within or outside of DOJ." And still another Justice probe, launched by Attorney General Janet Reno when she took office, concluded in September 1994 that the Bua report was correct - there was nothing to the now-convoluted charges that PROMIS was stolen and sold illegally or that the Hamiltons were due any monies. Moreover, the Reno report concluded that Riconosciuto's stories were not confirmable and that Videnieks was not involved in the alleged schemes laid out by the convicted felon. Canada also conducted a probe in the early 1990s and concluded that allegations concerning its use of a stolen version of PROMIS were lies. The Reno report affirmed Canada's conclusions as well. So it was with great surprise that Insight learned last year about the secret RCMP investigation. McDade and Buffam were on the trail of PROMIS anew and were reviewing all the machinations that have accompanied this exotic story for more than a decade. It is unclear what sparked the Mounties' probe except that it involves Canada's national security. And of keen interest to the RCMP investigators were Riconosciuto and Videnieks, two men concerning whom the Mounties spent considerable time, money and effort to secure information about their alleged roles in the theft of the PROMIS software. In dozens of interviews with those who came in contact with McDade and Buffam, Insight has pieced together the trail the Mounties blazed in the United States from coast to coast. Clearly, as they told others, they did not believe the official U.S. and Canadian reports and conclusions. And, McDade reportedly told people many officials in both governments had indeed lied, cheated and covered up a significant and dark story. Insight has learned the two RCMP investigators plumbed the old Customs probe of Videnieks, the former DOJ official who was investigated for possible perjury. And what the Mounties found, according to some of those they interviewed, very well could confirm Riconosciuto's claim that he knew Videnieks. For example, months before McDade and Buffam came looking for answers in the United States, they had established a working relationship with John Belton, a Canadian living in Ontario who had become involved with PROMIS as a result of a 1980s securities-fraud scheme in Canada allegedly involving Earl Brian and companies he owned or controlled, such as Hadron Inc., Clinical Sciences Inc., Biotech Capital Corp. (renamed Infotechnology Corp. in 1987); and American Systology Inc. Belton's securities-fraud claims resulted in a 1986 RCMP investigation and civil litigation that are ongoing today. Belton, who met in person with the RCMP investigators at least 31 times and talked on the telephone with them dozens more, reportedly steered the Mounties to previously unknown information involving the Customs probe of Videnieks. And this led McDade to Scott Lawrence, the agent in Customs' Boston office who was in charge of the investigation of Videnieks. What information Lawrence may have passed along to McDade is anyone's guess, as neither Lawrence nor the Mountie will say. But Insight has confirmed Lawrence and McDade talked. And, based on documents obtained by Insight concerning the Customs probe, the investigation was wide-ranging in its subpoena request. For example, according to a Nov. 15, 1993, letter to Justice Department Assistant Attorney General John Dwyer from Lawrence's boss, John T. Kelly, Customs' acting regional director in Boston: "Concerning the Peter Videnieks investigation, I believe that to properly complete this investigation, the assistance of federal grand juries in a number of locations will be required." Locations of the requested grand juries included Seattle, the District of Columbia and the Northern District of Illinois. And the purpose of impaneling these grand juries was, according to the Kelly letter, to obtain testimony and documents from about 22 people connected to the Inslaw/ PROMIS affair, as well as the CIA and the Wackenhut Corp. How this tied in to a simple case of suspected perjury by Videnieks is unknown. A former high-ranking federal law-enforcement official told Insight that "Videnieks was under investigation by an internal-affairs unit at the Customs Service and that the investigation, which included other matters, centered on an allegation that Videnieks committed perjury at the 1992 trial of Michael Riconosciuto." According to this source, "Customs' internal affairs ultimately dropped the probe because Videnieks no longer was an employee of the agency." This former official, who asked not to be identified, further said that Kelly and Lawrence had tried unsuccessfully to get a Boston-based U.S. attorney on the case but failed. Main Justice got involved because of its then-ongoing probe into Inslaw that Reno ordered. Kelly had hoped that main Justice would authorize the requested grand juries but, ultimately, he was told to seek authority elsewhere; impaneling the three grand juries would not be authorized by Washington. Finally, after many attempts, Customs dropped the case because Videnieks no longer worked for the agency. To Jimmy Rothstein, a retired New York City policeman who worked with Kelly on the Videnieks matter, that's not quite what happened. The investigation came to a dead end "right after Lawrence interviewed Alexander Haig," Rothstein tells Insight. "I was sitting in an Irish pub in Boston with Tim Kelly," he explains, "and we were waiting for the call from Lawrence. The thing got shut down. Tim Kelly responded by saying, `They ain't gonna screw my guys over.' Nothing ever came of it, though, and I told them this from the beginning." Why Haig, a former secretary of state, White House official and Army general would be interviewed as part of a Customs investigation could not be established. Haig couldn't be reached for comment. Videnieks long has denied any involvement with Riconosciuto or Earl Brian, or being involved in any conspiracy or illegal scheme to sell or convert the PROMIS software. In a brief telephone interview with Insight, Videnieks recently claimed that he couldn't recall the specifics of the investigation by Customs but warned that Insight "had better get the story right or I'll have my attorneys up to see you." Because Customs agents Lawrence and Kelly have declined Insight's requests for interviews, it's difficult to know the ins and outs of their probe, let alone what they found to prove or disprove the allegations of perjury. However, this much is clear: Videnieks' denials never have been contradicted. And, as a result, this key portion of Riconosciuto's claims remains in question. But, as Insight reported in Part II of this series, other Riconosciuto stories appear to have been confirmed by the RCMP investigators and by documentary evidence obtained by this magazine. This may explain why the Mounties spent so much time on the portions of Riconosciuto's claims involving Videnieks. If they could show the alleged links did exist, that might begin to unravel a string of deception that could lead to the highest levels of the U.S. and Canadian governments. Belton kept copious notes of the conversations he had with the RCMP investigators. In one such note, dated June 8, 2000, Belton wrote that McDade told him "the `Drug Tug' captain Calvin Robinson was the Videnieks driver to the Cabazon - ties to Earl Brian and Michael Riconosciuto." This was followed by a June 16, 2000, notation about McDade informing Belton that "they [McDade and Buffam] have determined a second material definitive connection between Peter Videnieks and Michael Riconosciuto. i `Drug Tug' captain Calvin Robinson - Videnieks has always denied an association with Michael Riconosciuto. I confirmed it, I can put Videnieks with Michael Riconosciuto now." The reference to the "Drug Tug" concerns the 1988 seizure of a barge hauling 157 tons of hashish and marijuana into San Francisco Bay. The skipper of the boat was Calvin Robinson, a man who long has maintained that he and his company were the victims of a government setup. According to Belton, "Sean told me that he interviewed Calvin Robinson and that Robinson was the driver for Peter Videnieks to the Cabazon Indian Reservation." This is about what McDade also told Inslaw's Bill Hamilton in one of many conversations, also noted for the record. "McDade said that he could prove that Videnieks committed perjury when he testified against Riconosciuto, that he had interviewed the man who drove Videnieks to the reservation," Hamilton recalls. Then there's Harry Martin, a journalist with 32 years of experience, publisher of the weekly Napa Sentinel and is a city councilman in that picturesque California township. He recently told Insight that, in the process of doing preliminary work on Riconosciuto years back, "I spoke to Peter Videnieks in either 1990 or 1991 - before Michael had been arrested -and Videnieks admitted that he knew Riconosciuto." Martin also says that he spoke to Riconosciuto prior to the now-infamous March 1991 affidavit given to Inslaw outlining alleged illegal schemes and before the now-convicted felon was arrested on illegal drug charges. Martin says he was interested but wanted to check out individuals Riconosciuto had mentioned he'd known to verify the man's general veracity. "That's how I got to Videnieks," Martin says. "I just called the guy up and asked him if he knew Riconosciuto and he said yes, he did. That was before his [Riconosciuto's] arrest." If accurate, this places Videnieks on a collision course with what he has testified under oath and in sworn statements to federal investigators. It also gives credence to one of the wilder aspects of another Riconosciuto story which the RCMP spent considerable time tracking down. Because Videnieks is a central player in the Hamiltons' allegations that the DOJ stole their software, whether Videnieks did know Riconosciuto is key to connecting the two men to the Cabazon Indian reservation, where Riconosciuto claims to have modified the software. If McDade's statements to Belton and Hamilton are true and Martin's recollections of his conversation with Videnieks are correct, it would appear the connection has been made. In turn, it could revamp not only the Inslaw case in the courts and in Congress, but it would raise complicated issues in Canada where the RCMP probe continues. When and how the Mounties' investigation will end is a mystery. But this much is certain: It is having reverberations in security circles around the world. To be continued.
PROMIS Spins Web of Intrigue

The dejected officer shakes his head. "We got further than anyone else ever did on this case," he says, "and nobody outside of law enforcement will ever know what we found because no one in law enforcement can ever tell anyone what we found." The speaker was talking about a case on which he had worked most of last year with Sean McDade and Randy Buffam, officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who conducted an eight-month secret investigation in the United States in search of the truth about decades-old allegations concerning stolen software called PROMIS and its relation to suspected breaches in Canadian national security. Insight carefully has tracked the Mounties' ongoing investigation, code-named Project Abbreviation, a far-reaching international probe extending well beyond the theft of the breakthrough PROMIS computer software created in the late 1970s by Bill and Nancy Hamilton, owners of the firm Inslaw Inc. As a former congressional investigator tells Insight, "There is a putrid stench that reaches across party lines [in Washington] and involves cover-ups by governments which have spent millions of dollars pretending to investigate the Inslaw affair only to end up with nothing to show for it. You don't have to wonder why so many investigations failed; you only have to look at the evidence that shows there is more to the [alleged] theft of PROMIS than meets the eye. And powerful people don't want it out." This also is what the RCMP investigators have told people interviewed by Insight about what the Mounties discovered as their probe quickly expanded from PROMIS to include a cast of characters engaged in or suspected of involvement in high-level espionage, organized crime, illegal-drug shipments, arms smuggling, murder and money laundering. In fact, McDade and Buffam are continuing to look at a case that has thwarted investigations by many others, including two congressional committees, the U.S. Justice Department, a special prosecutor, swarms of federal law-enforcement officers and prosecutors, a special commission in Canada and many journalists. But until the RCMP probe got under way, investigators were unable to solve the myriad of riddles and conundrums surrounding the Inslaw matter. Many told Insight that as soon as anyone began to turn up answers about these shadowy figures and international intrigues, promising investigations suddenly were shut down on higher authority, witnesses disappeared and careers of experienced cops and seasoned federal prosecutors were ruined. In the first three installments of this exclusive four-part investigative series, Insight tracked the Mounties and reported what they had said about their inquiries. We learned that the Mounties came to the United States in search of answers to two central questions. First, they wanted to confirm that it was Inslaw's PROMIS software that Canada's law-enforcement and intelligence agencies were using and, second, whether the software had been modified with backdoor access to facilitate secret espionage against Canada. Because of the highly sensitive nature of such concerns, the RCMP investigators were careful not to make official contacts with government agencies in the United States, including those which years before had looked into the PROMIS caper. McDade and Buffam began by centering their investigation on people reportedly involved in the alleged theft of the computer software. Of great interest to the Mounties were the roles played by Peter Videnieks, a former U.S. Customs Service official on loan to the Justice Department in the 1980s who was accused of facilitating the theft of PROMIS, and Michael Riconosciuto, a computer genius convicted and jailed in an exotic drug case who claims to have been hired to put the backdoor in PROMIS for the purpose of international espionage and money laundering. Although Canada long has denied having Inslaw software, and Videnieks has denied any involvement, the secret investigation by the Mounties was blessed from the highest levels of the RCMP and thousands of man-hours and great sums of money were expended to get to the bottom of what some see as a gravely serious breach of Canadian security. As with all of the other probes, this one started with PROMIS and, having discovered a shadowy network of bizarre criminal operations, branched out to include very serious allegations of wrongdoing beyond PROMIS. Details of these discoveries never were revealed in earlier public reports by Congress and the Justice Department. Yet there is proof positive that those probes delved into such areas and the American public was never told. What appears to have made the RCMP probe different is that sources approached by the Mounties tipped Insight, leading to a cross-country investigation to determine why the national-security division of the RCMP was operating secretly in the United States and making inquiries about PROMIS and a series of international money-laundering schemes used by intelligence agencies and criminal enterprises. Consider this item: In September last year, a thick plain manila envelope was sent by the RCMP to a California address. In it was a transcript of a recorded 1992 conversation between Riconosciuto and an FBI agent. Riconosciuto had been arrested but not yet convicted on drug charges and he was offering information to the FBI agent in exchange for admission to the bureau's Witness Protection Program. The details contained in this transcribed tape recording were explosive. The envelope had been sent for a specific reason to Cheri Seymour, a former journalist turned private detective whom McDade and Buffam had contacted six months earlier because of her work on stories about illegal-drug operations, gunrunning schemes and money laundering. In the transcript of this tape-recorded phone call (one of several obtained by the RCMP and Insight), Riconosciuto offers the FBI information about bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, at Castle Bank and Savings, and the Workers Bank in Colombia (Banco de la Troba Hadores) in which he claims to have "set up virtual dead drops." Riconosciuto explains that this "is a way to get around reconciliations on ACH's [automated clearinghouses]," an interbank network for electronic fund transfers. The transcribed telephone conversation contains references to legal and illegal enterprises and a diverse cast of characters, including Robert Booth Nichols, a self-proclaimed CIA operative, licensed arms dealer and partner with Riconosciuto in a company called Meridian Arms, which was a weapons- development firm. The transcript also refers to Michael Abbell, a former Department of Justice official now serving time in a federal penitentiary for money laundering in connection with the Cali drug cartel. In detailing these activities, Riconosciuto pulls no punches. In fact, many of the claims he makes to the FBI agent later are confirmed, often years before any had been publicly known, such as the Abbell matter and a DEA sting operation in Lebanon (see "The Plot Thickens in PROMIS Affair," Feb. 5). As far as Insight has been able to learn, the FBI never followed up on what Riconosciuto told their agent. One reason may have been that Riconosciuto had told similar stories to others in a desperate attempt to get out of prison but dared not provide corroborating evidence. Another reason may be that, prior to the RCMP probe, people fingered by Riconosciuto flatly denied his allegations or said they never had heard of him. But by tracking the Mounties and obtaining or reviewing originals or copies of much of the data they collected, Insight confirmed that the RCMP investigators found substantial evidence to confirm many of Riconosciuto's claims. Much of this data had been overlooked by previous investigators, including documents and computer tapes secreted for years in storage and in a house trailer in the middle of Death Valley. The transcript sent by the Mounties to Seymour takes on special significance because none of the information in it dealt with the alleged theft and modification of the PROMIS software. Or did it? Was the RCMP sending a cryptic message about a change in the focus of the RCMP investigation, or was it signaling Seymour that the PROMIS software was being used in the international banking system for illegal activities? If the latter is true, the Mounties aren't the first investigators to run into the proposition that PROMIS has been manipulated for other nefarious purposes in addition to international espionage. Take, for example, the 1992 House Judiciary Committee investigation of the Inslaw affair. John Cohen, one of the lead investigators on the committee, suspected that there was much more involved with the PROMIS case than a contract dispute or alleged software theft. His committee was conducting its hearings when Seymour and Cohen first got together; she was pursuing a story about illegal-drug trafficking and money laundering and wrote to him about her findings and possible links to the panel's probe. "Cohen," recalls Seymour, "was very much on top of this; he knew what was going on." The two investigators explored the idea that PROMIS was being used for illegal activities in the banking system. According to Seymour, Cohen "didn't mince words. He told me that he had a theory about why PROMIS was taken and that it was because it could be modified to track money laundering -and that it therefore could be modified to control hundreds of accounts and move money invisibly through the international banking system." Seymour further says that Cohen said "what a lot of people don't realize is that there are two banking systems. There's CHIPS and SWIFT, and the phrase `Swift Chips' has been spread throughout this whole investigation without a lot of people realizing what that meant. Swift Chips is a referral to those two clearinghouse systems. They do $2 billion worth of banking transactions per day and, if one was able to move accounts through there [undetected], you could move money invisibly around the world." Notwithstanding that its chief investigator had pursued such theories during the panel's investigation, in the end there was no mention of money laundering in the official report the Judiciary Committee issued on the Inslaw matter. Cohen tells Insight that the committee was "strictly focused on the Hamiltons' allegations about the theft of their software. Drugs and money laundering certainly were topics, but it wasn't part of what the committee reported. That type of information was collected as part of the information provided by people interviewed by the committee." But it was never fully pursued, he says. "Another area," Cohen continues, "was this whole MCA element" that Riconosciuto had said was part of the larger PROMIS story. "We were able to support that Robert Booth Nichols had connections with organized crime because he was someone who was identified on a FBI wiretap. That investigation [of MCA] for some reason was shut down. We're not talking about wackos; we're talking about assistant U.S. attorneys and FBI agents who felt very strongly that the investigation was shut down because they started looking at the wrong people." Cohen is referring to the early 1980s FBI investigation of suspected drug trafficking by Nichols and Eugene Giaquinto, then-president of MCA Home Entertainment and a partner with Nichols in Meridian International Logistics - the parent company of Meridian Arms, in which Riconosciuto also was involved. Wiretaps had been placed by the FBI on selected phones which recorded Nichols, Giaquinto and many others speaking with or about reputed Mafia figures allegedly trying to move in on the movie industry. In transcripts of many of these wiretaps, which Insight has obtained, there are references to the FBI probe and how friends in Washington, including at the Justice Department, would see to it that nothing ultimately would happen. Learning of this no doubt alarmed the FBI and federal prosecutors. One of these investigators was FBI agent Thomas Gates, the lead investigator on the MCA case. He was brought into the House Judiciary Committee's investigation because of his knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the 1991 death of freelance journalist Danny Casolaro and information concerning Nichols, et al. Like that of the Mounties, Casolaro's investigation focused on the theft of PROMIS software and grew to encompass other criminal activities, including drug trafficking and money laundering. One of Casolaro's sources was Nichols and, according to telephone records from that time, Casolaro spent hundreds of hours speaking with the shadowy figure in the months leading up to the journalist's death. At the same time that Casolaro was using Nichols as a source, he also was in contact with FBI agent Gates, whose case ultimately was shut down. Just days before his death, Casolaro allegedly was warned by Nichols to drop his investigation. Casolaro reportedly had learned of the connection between former Justice official Abbell and Nichols and their alleged links to the Cali drug cartel - information provided by Riconosciuto that, at least as related to Abbell, proved accurate. Days later, Casolaro was found dead in a hotel room in Martinsburg, W.Va., where his arms had been savagely slashed nearly a dozen times. The death was ruled a suicide; the material resulting from his investigation disappeared. Another investigator who followed parallel paths was U.S. Customs agent Scott Lawrence. He was the lead investigator out of the Boston internal-affairs office looking into allegations that Peter Videnieks had committed perjury when he testified in the 1992 trial of Riconosciuto. Videnieks had been fingered by Riconosciuto as having facilitated the theft of PROMIS and of having visited Riconosciuto often at the Cabazon Indian reservation where Riconosciuto worked on his various technical projects. At the trial, however, Videnieks denied knowing Riconosciuto or having any dealings with anyone associated with him. Others called to testify also denied knowing Riconosciuto. Despite the denials, Lawrence spent more than two years investigating Videnieks and interviewing many of the same characters who had been questioned by other investigators, including the Judiciary Committee. And, like those before him, Lawrence obtained much of the same information about the connection between Nichols, Abbell and the Cali drug cartel, and reportedly collected information that confirmed other Riconosciuto stories. Among those Lawrence contacted was Seymour, to whom he confided details of his probe, such as that Nichols would be testifying in Los Angeles in a 1993 lawsuit he had filed against the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for pulling the weapons licenses necessary for his work with Meridian Arms. At this trial Nichols stated under oath that he was a CIA operative and, according to news accounts of the trial, Nichols' defense was that "he toiled quietly and selflessly for nearly two decades on behalf of the shadowy CIA keepers in more than 30 nations, from Central America to Southeast Asia." The Customs agent was so fixed on the claims made by Riconosciuto about Abbell, Nichols, Videnieks and others that he had Seymour give a statement under oath about her knowledge of the convicted felon's claims. But Lawrence's investigation came to a sudden end when the Justice Department declined a request to impanel several grand juries in the United States, including one in Seattle, to depose officials from the CIA. Videnieks never was charged with any wrongdoing. Officially, Insight was told, Customs shut down its probe because Videnieks no longer was an employee of the service. And Videnieks tells Insight that he did nothing wrong, but can't remember much from that time. Although Insight made repeated attempts to speak with Lawrence and his then-supervisor, John (Tim) Kelly, neither agent would provide details of their investigation. Lawrence did say during a brief telephone conversation that "it's a good thing that you're working on this; it's a good thing to follow." RCMP investigators must have thought so, too, since they tracked down Lawrence, who now is working in California, and obtained valuable assistance from him, Insight has been told. Now back in Canada, McDade and Buffam are keeping mum about what they ultimately found. The RCMP has confirmed that Project Abbreviation exists and that it remains ongoing. Officials of the Canadian Parliament, the Canadian solicitor general and even the prime-minister's office have declined, however, to talk about the RCMP case, including any aspect involving assistance provided to the probe by Great Britain's domestic-security (MI5) and foreign-intelligence (MI6) services, which Insight has been told provided substantial assistance to McDade and Buffam. The State Department is supposed to have filed a formal complaint with Canada about the secret treks into the United States by the RCMP investigators, and Insight has confirmed the FBI has launched a national-security investigation. On orders from Washington, special agents of the bureau quietly have been interviewing people contacted by McDade and Buffam and asking what the Mounties were after and what they got, including computer tapes long sought by prior investigators that could establish convincingly that secret copies of PROMIS indeed were bootlegged, modified and sold illegally. Meanwhile, Riconosciuto remains in prison on what he believes were trumped-up charges to keep him silent about PROMIS and his related activities. Until now his claims have been dismissed as rantings from a lunatic or a pathological liar. But, as the RCMP investigators discovered, major elements of Riconosciuto's stories appear truthful. And, if so, his other claims and documentary evidence obtained by the RCMP could open a can of worms. The question now remaining is this: Will the secrets of this strange case ever be made public? Investigators of the House Judiciary and Senate Intelligence committees have begun to ask questions as a result of the Insight series, as have officials at the Justice Department. And, based on what the RCMP has told Insight's sources, areas ripe for investigation include, in addition to illegal drugs, arms-smuggling and money-laundering schemes, the role of the Russian Mafia in international banking transactions and links to intelligence agencies, transfers of intellectual property and penetration of Canadian and U.S. corporations. Then there's the matter of potential backdoors to the classified computer systems at the U.S. nuclear-weapons laboratories where data continues to disappear. McDade and Buffam stumbled into more than a simple theft of computer software, say senior authorities on Capitol Hill. They uncovered a network involving friend and foe alike that may be using PROMIS and systems like it for a variety of illegal activities worldwide. Stay tuned.

Nothing Is Secret

Good morning, Mr. McDade. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has reason to believe that the national security of Canada has been compromised. A trojan horse, or back door, allegedly has been found in computer systems in the nation's top law-enforcement and intelligence organizations. "Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to establish whether this is the PROMIS software reportedly stolen in the early 1980s from William and Nancy Hamilton, owners of Inslaw Inc., and reportedly modified for international espionage. As always, should you or any of your associates be caught, the governments of Canada and the United States will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This recording will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Sean." Sounds like the opening taped message from an episode of the 1960s TV action series Mission Impossible. But just such a mission was offered - and accepted - by two investigators of the National Security Section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The Mounties then covertly entered the United States in February of last year and for nearly eight months conducted a secret investigation into the theft of the PROMIS software and whether and by whom it had been obtained for backdoor spying. PROMIS is a universal bridge to the forest of computer systems. It allows covert and undetectable surveillance, and it and its related successors are unimaginably important in the new age of communications warfare. In this exclusive investigative series Insight tracks the Mounties and explores the mysteries pursued by the RCMP, including allegations involving a gang of characters believed to be associated with the suspected theft of PROMIS, swarms of spies (or the "spookloop" as the Mounties called them), the Mafia, big-time money laundering, murder, international arms smuggling and illegal drugs - to name but a few aspects of the still-secret RCMP probe. But the keystone to this RCMP investigation is PROMIS, that universal bridge and monitoring system, which stands for Prosecutor's Management Information System - a breakthrough computer software program originally developed in the early 1970s by the Hamiltons for case management by U.S. prosecutors. The first version of PROMIS was owned by the government since the development money was provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ), but something went awry on the way to proprietary development. For more than 15 years the story of the allegedly pirated Hamilton software, and how it may have wound up in the hands of the spy agencies of the world, has been hotly pursued by law-enforcement agencies, private detectives, journalists, congressional investigators, U.S. Customs and assorted U.S. attorneys. Even independent researchers have taken on the role of counterespionage agents in a quest to uncover the truth about this allegedly ongoing penetration of security. But each new U.S. investigation has failed fully to determine what happened. While the Mounties encountered a similar fate, officers Sean McDade and Randy Buffam have been the most successful to date. Last May, with the assistance of Hercules, Calif., detective Sue Todd, the Mounties walked away with a package of startling evidence that many believe will solve the case of the pirated software and its reported continuing use for international espionage and a host of other illegal activities. Insight has spent months retracing the steps of the two RCMP officers and interviewing their sources, poring over copies of documents they secured, listening to tape recordings of meetings in which they were involved and reviewing scores of reports and depositions that have been locked up for years. The result is this first installment of a four-part investigative report about how the Mounties conducted their covert border crossings and investigation that ranged across the United States and back again before returning to Canada where they discovered their cover had been blown. By late summer of 2000 the Canadian press was reporting not only the existence of this secret national-security probe - "Project Abbreviation" - but that if the reported allegations prove true "it would be the biggest-ever breach of Canada's national security." Confusing official comments about the probe added further mystery. But Insight has confirmed many of the details, including the fact that the investigation is continuing. And it's serious stuff. McDade began his extended trip into international espionage early last year. It began at least on Jan. 19, 2000, with an e-mail that said: "I am looking to contact Carol (Cheri) regarding a matter that has surfaced in the past. If this e-mail account is still active, please reply and I will in turn forward a Canadian phone number and explain my position and reason for request." This communication, from e-mail account simorp (PROMIS spelled backward), was the first of hundreds sent during an eight-month period from "dear hunter," also known as Sean McDade. It reached Cheri Seymour, a Southern California journalist, private detective and author of a well-regarded book, Committee of the States. Seymour became one of the most important of McDade's contacts during the Mounties' continuing investigation. Although she had agreed to remain silent about their probe until McDade filed a report with his superiors, she changed her mind when news of the probe began to leak in the Canadian press. It was then that the Southern Californian contacted Insight and offered to share what she knew about the investigation if this magazine would look into the story. And what a story it is. A petite, attractive, unassuming middle-aged woman, Seymour looks more like a violinist in a symphony orchestra than an international sleuth. But one quickly becomes aware of the depth of her knowledge not only of the alleged theft of the PROMIS software, but also of other reported illegal activities and dangerous characters associated with it. Seymour's involvement with PROMIS began more than a decade ago while working as an investigative reporter on an unrelated story about high-level corruption within the sheriff's department of the Central California town of Mariposa, near Yosemite National Park, where deputies reportedly were involved in illegal-drug activity. The dozen or so who were not involved repeatedly had begged the journalist to conduct an investigation. When she learned that one of the officers had taken the complaints to the state attorney general in Sacramento and within weeks was reported missing in an alleged boating accident on nearby Lake McClure, she launched her probe. The owner of the local newspaper, the Mariposa Guide, in time contacted ABC television producer Don Thrasher and the story of the corruption within the Mariposa Sheriff's Department ran in 1991 on ABC's prime-time television news program 20/20. Seymour's investigation is chronicled in a draft manuscript called the "Last Circle," written under her pseudonym Carol Marshall but made available anonymously on the Internet in 1997. PROMIS then was only a sidebar to the larger story, but it was this obscure Internet posting that led RCMP investigators McDade and Buffam to Seymour's living room two years later. According to Seymour: "Nothing [previously] came of the work I did. Even though in October of 1992 I had sent a synopsis of my work to John Cohen, lead investigator on the House Judiciary Committee, looking into the theft of PROMIS and its possible connections to the savage death of free-lance journalist Danny Casolaro. But by then the committee had completed its report and published its findings. It was a closed case. Nothing ever happened with the connections I was able to make among the players involved in the theft of PROMIS and illegal drug trafficking and money laundering." That is, until McDade sent his first cryptic e-mail. Within a week the Mountie had arranged to meet Seymour at her home to discuss aspects of his own secret investigation and begin the laborious task of copying thousands of documents Seymour had collected from an abandoned trailer in Death Valley belonging to a man at or near the center of the PROMIS controversy, Michael Riconosciuto, a boy genius, entrepreneur, convicted felon - and the man who has claimed that he modified the pirated PROMIS software. The documents provided specific information about Riconosciuto's connections to the Cabazon Indian Reservation, where he claims to have carried out the modification, but they also painted a clear picture of the men with whom Riconosciuto associated, including mob figures, high-level government officials, intelligence and law-enforcement officers and informants - even convicted murderers. Before McDade focused on a three-day copying frenzy, the Mountie gathered Todd, Seymour and an impartial observer invited by Seymour to corroborate the meeting around Seymour's dining-room table and began to tell a dramatic tale of government lies and international espionage. "I sat there with my mouth wide open and my eyes practically popping out of my head - you know, that deer-in-the-headlights look," Seymour recounts. "I couldn't believe what this guy was telling us. It wasn't anything I anticipated or even was prepared to hear." She says, "McDade told us his investigation had to do with locating information on the possible sale of PROMIS software to the RCMP in the mid-1980s. He had found evidence in RCMP files that PROMIS may have been installed in the Canadian computer systems, and he said an investigation was initiated by his superiors at the RCMP." According to Seymour, "McDade said that the details of his findings in Canada could conceivably cause a major scandal in both Canada and the United States.i He said if his investigation is successful it could cause the entire Republican Party to be dismantled - that it would cease to exist in the U.S." Hyperbole, perhaps, but bizarre stuff from a professional lawman. "Then," continues Seymour, "he said something that was just really out there. He stood in my dining room with a straight face and told us that ... more than one presidential administration will be exposed for their knowledge of the PROMIS software transactions. He said that high-ranking Canadian government officials may have unlawfully purchased the PROMIS software from high-ranking U.S. government officials in the Reagan/Bush administration, and he further stated that the RCMP has located numerous banks around the world that have been used by these U.S. officials to launder the money from the sale of the PROMIS software." Seymour was stunned. "First," she says, "I wondered if this guy was for real and, second, did he have something against Republicans." Just when she thought things couldn't get any weirder, "McDade detailed a December 1999 meeting at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico attended by the heads of the intelligence divisions of the U.S. [CIA], Great Britain [MI6], Israel [Mossad] and Canada [CSIS]. McDade said the topic of the discussion was UNIQUE ELEMENTS, and that during this meeting it allegedly was revealed that all four allied nations share computer systems and have for years. The meeting was called after a glitch was found in a British computer system that had caused the loss of historical case data." McDade continued with this scenario by telling the astonished group: "The Israeli Mossad may have modified the original PROMIS modification [the first back door] so it became a two-way back door, allowing the Israelis access to top U.S. weapons secrets at Los Alamos and other classified installations. The Israelis may now possess all the nuclear secrets of the United States." According to Seymour, he concluded by saying that "the Jonathan Pollard [spy] case is insignificant by comparison to the current crisis." This was pretty heavy stuff for a foreign law-enforcement agent to be bandying with complete strangers. And it made those present uncomfortable. Was McDade making up wild tales for some as yet unrevealed purpose or was he, in fact, reporting what he knew to be true based on information he had gleaned from his investigation? Insight has tried repeatedly to contact McDade and his superiors to discuss the Mountie's accounts of espionage and other crimes only to be rebuffed through official channels. But in carefully assembling and independently checking disparate pieces of the McDade story line Insight was able to confirm that there was indeed a December 1999 meeting at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the topic of the meeting was, indeed, code-named UNIQUE ELEMENTS. Seymour never learned further details about that meeting, though she tried, alerting several U.S. senators, including Charles Robb, D-Va., Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Richard Bryan, D-Nev., about what McDade had told her in February - nearly four months before the public was made aware of massive computer problems at Los Alamos (see "DOE `Green Book' Secrets Exposed," Jan. 1). Ironically, Congress was probing such lapses, but only Bob Simon, Bingaman's staff director on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, responded. Simon advised that he would show the letter to the senator and possibly refer "some or all of the information in the letter to Ed Curran, director of the Department of Energy's [DOE] Office of Counterintelligence." Seymour never had any further communication from Bingaman's office, the DOE or any federal investigator seeking to discover which "foreign agent" had told her of severe computer leakage from Los Alamos long before it became public knowledge. How McDade knew what he claimed may never be made public. But what is known can be pieced together from the many contacts he had with individuals having historical knowledge of the allegations surrounding PROMIS and a host of other seemingly unrelated criminal enterprises and crimes. For instance, in January 2000 McDade contacted PROMIS developers and owners Bill and Nancy Hamilton, explaining what his investigation was about; what, to date, had surfaced; and what the implications might be. "McDade said my government made two untruthful statements in 1991 [the year congressional hearings were held on the theft of PROMIS]," Bill Hamilton tells Insight. "The first was that they [Canada] had developed the software in-house. McDade said that wasn't true, it just materialized one day out of nowhere. The second untruth was that they [the Canadian government] had investigated this. McDade said that his investigation was the first." Hamilton further explained that "McDade believed PROMIS software was being used to compromise their [Canada's] national security." Needless to say, this was interesting news to Hamilton, given that it was "the second time the Canadian government has said they have our software, only to retract the admission later." The first time was in 1991, he recalls. "They contacted us to see if we had a French-language version because they said they only had the English version - which, by the way, we did not sell to them. At first we didn't take it seriously because it was before we were aware that the software was reportedly being used in intelligence. We just knew that the U.S. Department of Justice acted rather strangely, took our software and stiffed us. It never occurred to us that the software was being distributed to foreign governments," Hamilton tells Insight. "When they [Canada] followed up their call with a letter saying PROMIS software is used in a number of their departments - 900 locations in the RCMP, to be exact - Nancy and I said `Hey, wait a minute.'" Of course, laughs Hamilton, "when one of our newspapers in the U.S. got hold of that information and printed it, the Canadians retracted and apologized for a mistake. They now said the RCMP never had the software." It is important to note that the alleged theft of PROMIS software was well investigated. However, no investigation by any governmental body, including the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which made public its findings in September 1992, the Report of Special Counsel Nicholas J. Bua to the Attorney General of the United States Regarding the Allegations of Inslaw, Inc., completed in March 1993, nor the Justice Department's Review of the Bua Report, which was published in September 1993, confirmed that any agency or entity of Canada had obtained and used an illegal copy of the Hamiltons' PROMIS software. A Justice report commissioned by Attorney General Janet Reno concluded the same but did confirm that a system called PROMIS was being used by Canadian agencies but claimed that this system was totally different - it was just a coincidence that the two software programs had the same unusual name and spelling. So what happened over the course of 10 years to lead the RCMP's top national-security investigators to probe the matter anew and to do so with such secrecy throughout the United States and Canada? Why would McDade, by all accounts a seasoned and well-respected Mountie, tell whopping tales to so many people, including not only Bill Hamilton but strangers Seymour, Todd and others? The answers may be found in the pattern of people who were questioned by the Mounties. The information for which they were asked and which they reportedly provided, may reveal that the alleged theft of the breakthrough PROMIS software was not, in fact, the focus of the investigation, but was secondary to how the software has come to be used. In August 2000, McDade told the Toronto Star's Valerie Lawton and Allan Thompson, "There are issues that I am not able to talk about and have nothing to do with what you're probably making inquiries about," which centered on PROMIS. Was the Mountie revealing that his investigation had reached the level he had unguardedly revealed to Seymour and friends? Surprisingly, McDade did not focus his investigation on interviews with government officials who were involved with the PROMIS software. Rather he focused on people who claimed to have knowledge of the purported theft, many of whom also have been connected to other illegal activities, including drug trafficking and money laundering. And Michael Riconosciuto was at the top of McDade's list. With the help of Detective Todd, who had facilitated the Mounties' meetings with the hope of also obtaining information about the 1997 execution-style double homicide of Neil Abernathy and his 12-year-old son, Benden, McDade was given access to Riconosciuto and people and information that even few law-enforcement officers in the United States have secured. In fact, the assistance the Mountie received secretly from U.S. authorities was stunning and included access to information from highly confidential FBI internal files and case jackets (including the names of confidential witnesses and wiretapping information), U.S. Bureau of Prisons files, local law-enforcement reports and reportedly even classified U.S. intelligence data. It was with this kind of help that McDade was able to walk away with what many believe to be key material evidence in the PROMIS software legal case - material evidence of which only Riconosciuto had knowledge. After extensive interviews with Riconosciuto in a federal penitentiary in Florida, McDade in May 2000 made a $1,500 payment on a defaulted storage unit in Vallejo, Calif., that belonged to Riconosciuto. Poring through floor-to-ceiling boxes, McDade hit pay dirt when he found six RL02 magnetic tapes that Riconosciuto said were the PROMIS modification updates - the boot-up system for PROMIS he claimed to have created. Coupling those storage-unit files with the thousands of pages of documents Seymour had obtained some years earlier from an abandoned trailer Riconosciuto had rented in the desert, McDade walked away with the whole kit and caboodle without so much as a peep out of U.S. law-enforcement or intelligence agencies. At least until now. Today, that evidence is in the hands of foreign agents - our neighbors up north in Canada. When questioned about the magnetic tapes, the RCMP would neither confirm nor deny that they were in its possession. Michele Gaudet, the RCMP spokesman, did tell Insight that the investigation is ongoing and it is very much about the PROMIS software - software that may or may not involve back-door entrance into the most secret computer systems in the Western world. ****OVERVIEW OF INSIGHT'S FOUR-PART SERIES**** This four-part series is about how a foreign law-enforcement agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), covertly entered the United States and for nearly eight months conducted a secret investigation about the alleged theft of PROMIS software and the part it may play in suspected security breaches in Canada, the United States and other nations. In Part 1, Insight tracks the early movements of two RCMP national-security officers - Sean McDade and Randy Buffam - to contacts throughout the United States, including private detective Cheri Seymour, an author and former investigative journalist. Seymour has spent years investigating the alleged theft of PROMIS and illegal activities reportedly associated with it. McDade outlined the nature of his investigation and what is at stake. He described potential security breaches in his country and detailed top-level secret meetings at U.S. national laboratories about similar security problems in the United States. Here, readers also will learn how with the help of a small-town California detective, Sue Todd, the Mounties managed to leave the United States with material evidence that may be crucial to solving a major espionage puzzle. In Part 2, Insight follows the Mounties to the California desert in search of confirmation of allegations made by Michael Riconosciuto, the boy genius who reportedly modified the stolen PROMIS software for international espionage while working as research director of an alleged Cabazon/Wackenhut Joint Venture on the Cabazon Indian Reservation in Indio, Calif. It also is at Cabazon that other "characters" reportedly involved in the theft of the software were revealed and Riconosciuto's connections to them confirmed. It is a strange mix of alleged players - the Wackenhut Corp., government officials, mob-related goodfellows and murderers. Insight also will look at claimed arms deals and government research at the Cabazon reservation, including a secret weapons demonstration in Indio attended by many of the same cast reportedly key to the theft of PROMIS. In Part 3, readers will watch as the Mounties begin a lengthy review of a U.S. government official, Peter Videnieks, the Justice Department employee overseeing the PROMIS contract, who allegedly made the theft of the software possible. The U.S. Customs Service began an investigation of Videnieks based on its suspicion that he committed perjury when he testified at a 1991 trial of Riconosciuto. Based on documents obtained from federal law-enforcement agencies, Insight looks at a U.S. Customs Service investigation of Videnieks, which ultimately was dropped. The Mounties also probed a Customs investigation of reported drug trafficking and technology transfers over the Maine/Canadian border. In Part 4, Insight will review the numerous investigations conducted by law enforcement, beginning with the Mounties, concerning the alleged theft of the PROMIS software and individuals reportedly associated with that theft. Readers will see how each investigation began with review of the "theft" but quickly led into other suspected illegal activities, including technology transfers. This last part also will review how each new investigation has overlooked key evidence and seen careers threatened. By Paul M. Rodriguez


Special Report
Canadian Border Open to Terrorists

Posted Nov. 23, 2001
By Kenneth R. Timmerman

Media Credit: Jay Drowns/AFP
The United States and Canada have pledged to increase security along the 4,000-mile shared border.
The United States has a problem with terrorists who have found safe haven to the north. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the Canadian government is seeking to enact a new antiterror bill that would enhance police powers, define acts of terrorism, crack down on money-laundering and allow preventive detention of individuals suspected of belonging to a terrorist network.

The new legislation is referred to in Canada as Bill C-36. But to terrorism experts it is better known as the Ahmed Ressam Act of 2001, after an Algerian-born disciple of Osama bin Laden who eluded Canadian authorities for more than five years and was caught, only by chance, just two weeks before a planned attack intended to kill hundreds of Americans.

Ressam, trained in bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, has become known in the United States as the "Millennium Bomber." But to government officials in Ottawa he is worse than just a terrorist: He has become the face of Canada's failure to confront terrorism.

"The issues surrounding [Ressam's] ability to operate in Canada have been addressed," Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley boasted to New York City's Foreign Policy Association on Nov. 5. "Do we believe that terrorist sympathizers have operated on Canadian soil? Unfortunately, yes, this is probably the ugly truth ÷ as it is in the United States, Germany, Britain and many other countries around the globe."

The French judge who pursued Ressam across the Atlantic to his safe haven in Canada warned that the bin Laden-trained terrorist was extremely dangerous and bent on mayhem. But the Canadian government didn't seem to care. It refused to act on a Rogatory Letter ÷ a formal, 40-page arrest warrant sent by the French judge on April 7, 1999 ÷ that spelled out his violent crimes in minute detail.

Sensing that Ressam was preparing to act, the French judge and the head of the French counterespionage service paid a high-profile visit to Ottawa in October 1999. Yet Canadian authorities refused to arrest the suspect. "The Canadians have been less than forthcoming," French terrorism judge Jean-Louis Brugui¸re told Insight laconically in a recent interview in Paris.

Canada has a problem and the government in Ottawa knows it. Lax immigration and political-asylum laws have made America's neighbor to the north a safe haven of choice for international terrorists of bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. But while the government now seeks to close some of the legal loopholes, it may be too late.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) claimed in a report released in May 2000 that it was watching some 50 terrorist organizations and 350 "individual targets," but that liberal policies governing foreigners claiming political asylum prevent them from cracking down. In that report, CSIS Director Ward Elcock noted: "With perhaps the single exception of the United States, there are more international terrorist groups active here than in any other country in the world."

Although none of the 19 hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks came through Canada, there is mounting evidence that bin Laden has established a spider's web of support networks to America's north. These networks raise money, acquire valid travel documents for would-be terrorists, provide backup for operational cells and, in the case of Ressam, serve as the staging ground for attacks on the United States. Until now terrorists have been able to come and go in Canada as they please.

Rene Mercier, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the equivalent of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, says Canada now posts immigration-control officers overseas "to check out foreign sources of forged documents" used to apply for immigration visas. "Since 1995," he tells Insight, "we have denied entry to 35,000 people who have shown up at ports and airports with improper documents."

The important thing, he adds, was to catch people who posed a potential security risk before they entered the country. "Once they gain entry, they're in."

Ressam was picked up by U.S. Customs agents on Dec. 14, 1999, five years after he faked a claim for political asylum. When he drove off the car ferry from British Columbia, an alert officer at Port Angeles, Wash., became suspicious from his nervous behavior and poor English. She ordered Ressam out of his car; then the terrorist tried to flee. A search of his rented Chrysler turned up 130 pounds of explosives, homemade detonators and plans of the Los Angeles International Airport stashed in the spare-tire compartment of the trunk.

The Canadians never alerted U.S. authorities that Ressam was about to cross the border, and his name was not on any U.S. watch list. "He was arrested totally by chance," Brugui¸re says. "The Canadians knew about him two months earlier, but they let him slip through their fingers. If your Customs people hadn't been lucky, there would have been a major attack in America, with many dead."

Ressam told U.S. prosecutors he was planning to blow up the Los Angeles airport as part of a broader plot to wreak havoc in the United States during the millennium celebrations. He had picked it as a target because he had flown through Los Angeles on a return flight from Pakistan. "An airport is sensitive politically and economically," the terrorist told a New York court last July.

He said he had been trained in explosives, sabotage and assassination techniques in a camp near Khalden, Afghanistan, run by a Palestinian named Zeineddin Abu Zoubaida, identified by French intelligence in 1998 as a deputy to bin Laden. He returned to Canada from Afghanistan with small amounts of hexamine, a chemical that boosts fertilizer bombs, and plans for mixing explosives from commercially available fertilizer and nitric acid.

Despite detailed information presented to the Canadian government on two separate occasions in 1999 by the French, Ressam never was arrested or even questioned. And he was just one of a much broader network of bin Laden associates who found safe haven in Canada thanks to lax immigration and refugee laws.

Another accomplice, Bouabide Chamchi, was arrested by U.S. authorities after driving across the Canadian border into Vermont on Dec. 19, 1999. Chamchi was accompanied by a 35-year-old mother of three from Montreal named Lucia Garofalo, whom U.S. prosecutors tied to more Afghan-trained Arabs who had gained asylum in Canada. They were planning separate millennium-night attacks.

In Brooklyn, police picked up 31-year-old Abdel Ghani and accused him of providing "material support" to the plot. Ghani's name and phone number were in Ressam's pocket when he was arrested. Through Ghani, police found 29-year-old Abdel Hakim Tizegha, another cell member who had sought refuge in Canada. He was arrested on Dec. 24, 1999, after sneaking across the U.S. border through the bushes near Blaine, Wash.

An even more important member of the bin Laden terror networks, Fateh Kamel, had obtained Canadian citizenship. The French managed to grab him ÷ not with any help from Canada, but only after they learned from their own sources that he was in Saudi Arabia and planning to cross the border by car into Jordan to commit a terror attack.

"I informed the Jordanian authorities and they arrested him as he tried to cross the border," Brugui¸re says. Then the French judge went to Amman, Jordan, and got the Jordanians to extradite Fateh to France where he was convicted of plotting a terrorist conspiracy.

But neither Brugui¸re nor the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), the French equivalent of the FBI, got such cooperation from the Canadians. Instead, their appeals were ignored.

"There have been many changes since Sept. 11," says Canadian immigration board spokesman Mercier. "We have become more vigilant. Going through the border now is more difficult; we ask more questions. But we have to achieve a balance. We are not going to shut the door to legitimate political refugees, only to people with bad intentions," he tells Insight.

Distinguishing between the two is a form of art the Canadians do not appear to have mastered. "We have an appallingly out-of-control immigration and refugee situation," David Harris, the former chief of strategic planning at CSIS, told Maclean's magazine recently. "We've seen the legacy of that in the Ressam case." Ressam originally claimed refugee status when he first arrived in Canada in 1994 but was turned down. Despite that, he stayed in Canada illegally.

Mercier tells Insight that Canada will not expel Algerians caught in Canada illegally because they could be subject to persecution in their native land. A similar policy applies to natives of Afghanistan.

Under existing law, no security check of foreigners applying for refugee status is carried out until after they have been granted refugee status. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan has proposed changes which are expected to become law by the end of the year, but clearly has put the focus on attracting new immigrants, not screening those already in Canada.

Mercier believes "terrorism is not an immigration problem. When you've got people fancy enough to do 9/11, you're not talking about your average refugee claimant." Nevertheless, he adds, "as soon as we get information on a specific case of someone who is believed to be a threat, we take action."

In the case of Ressam, Mercier hinted that the information from Brugui¸re never had been passed on to Canada's immigration authorities. So Insight called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), who would have been responsible for serving an arrest warrant on Ressam. "Certainly I've heard that the French judge and the head of the DST came here, but they never came to us," says Leo Monbourquette, an RCMP spokesman in Montreal who handled the investigation after Ressam's arrest in the United States.

He suggested we try the Ministry of Justice. There, a spokesman explained the complexity of the Canadian system, which requires that valid extradition requests be presented to a Canadian court to determine if the proof would be sufficient to convict the suspect had his crime been committed in Canada. "If the court agrees, then the extradition request goes to the Minister of Justice, who again listens to both sides in the case before issuing an order of surrender," spokesman Patrick Charette tells Insight. "In the meantime, the suspect can appeal the decision all the way to the [Canadian] supreme court. It can take years."

Brugui¸re first learned about Ressam in 1996, three years before he sought his arrest in Canada. The judge was investigating a terrorist cell that came to be known as the "Roubaix Group," after the suburb of the northern French city of Lille where they assaulted a police station using AK-47 automatic rifles and RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades.

"The Roubaix Group committed acts of an extreme violence we rarely see," Brugui¸re says. "After fleeing the police station, they turned their automatic weapons on the driver of a passing car, slaughtering him in cold blood. A few weeks later, they held up an armored car, blowing a huge hole in the side with an RPG-7 rocket. They supported themselves through holdups."

It was a pattern that Ressam and other bin Laden operatives would repeat in Canada and elsewhere as they resorted to credit-card fraud and petty theft to support terrorist activities.

Eventually, the Roubaix killers holed up in a safe house, where they were assaulted by a French SWAT team. The gun battle was so fierce, Brugui¸re recalls, that it set the house on fire. "In the cinders we found the charred corpses of four of the terrorists."

Two members of the cell escaped and crossed the French border into Belgium, where they got into a fresh gun battle. Belgian police officers killed one of them, a Bosnian Muslim. The other, Omar Zemrime, was arrested carrying fake Canadian, Turkish and Belgian passports. As Brugui¸re did his detective work, he traced Zemrime to other bin Laden operatives in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China ÷ and to Ressam in Canada, who was one of the "live links" to bin Laden's command headquarters in Afghanistan.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and his Canadian counterpart, Lawrence MacAulay, met in Washington on Oct. 2 and promised to tighten border security to prevent terrorist infiltration. Both countries pledged to increase the number of agents at ports and airports, as well as the border guards who are responsible for patrolling the 4,000-mile shared border.

The United States currently has 965 INS personnel at the northern border and some 9,000 on the border with Mexico, and has asked Congress for funds to hire an additional 550 Border Patrol agents, many of whom now will be moved to the north. Canada has asked for an additional 100 immigration officers to complement the current force of 560, whose job is to examine the 110 million travelers and refugee claimants who cross Canada's borders each year.

Canada's proposed new antiterrorism bill now is before the Canadian Parliament. It can be viewed on the World Wide Web at www.canada.justice.gc.ca/en/terrorism/index.html.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine.

Police Yourself Policy 

Here's just one more example of how Customs expects ALL private boaters to report in to them on the "honor system" after returning "home" from "International Waters" or a "foreign country". (I am sure that ALL the smugglers will report in as required too!.......Right?  I don't think so. You have to be using narcotics yourself to believe that one!

 
How many of those of you that have worked an airport/seaport have had everyone report in as required by Customs laws? What about all of the ones that didn't report in at all? Now think about how many smugglers that go out and pick up a couple of hundred or even a couple of thousand pounds of narcotics will voluntarily "report in" as required by Customs and use the (800) number to tell U.S. Customs that they are waiting for inspection?  Enforcement vs "Honor System" IT DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY!!!
 
Why not require "transponders" on all boats like they do in the aircraft? That would be the only way of actually tracking these potential smugglers. All aircraft are required to have transponders. Why not all require it of all conveyances traveling from foreign? At least you can eliminate and separate the potential smuggler targets from the innocent travelers.

Copy of U.S. Customs official private boat reporting policy along our nations waterways, harbors and entries from international waters along our coastlines. 


Senator calls for U.S. border checks inside Canada
Under new system, checkpoints would stop drivers before they cross border
DETROIT (AP) ÷ "Reverse inspections" are needed at Michigan's border crossings to prevent hazardous materials ÷ or terrorists carrying explosives ÷ from crossing into the United States from Canada, says a U.S. senator.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin told a news conference on the Detroit side of the Ambassador Bridge today that it's imperative the U.S. government set up such a system.

By searching vehicles for dangerous cargo before they cross onto American soil, the country would be less vulnerable to a terrorist attack, Levin said.

Under a reverse-inspection system, U.S. and Canadian customs officials would set up stations on opposite sides of the border. Cars could be searched and suspicious people could be detained before they crossed the border.

The move would also ease congestion on the border, by moving any traffic backups, he said.

On Friday, Levin and fellow Democratic Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow sent a letter to the commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service urging the implementation of the system.

Levin said that if he doesn't receive an answer by Jan. 18, he will convene a congressional committee hearing and call the commissioner of U.S. Customs to testify.

"This is a matter of principle," he said. "Once we get an answer, there are a number of logistical issues, but I think we can solve them."

The Ambassador Bridge, which links Detroit and Windsor, is the busiest U.S.-Canada entry point, with more than 12 million vehicles crossing a year.

There are three other major bridge crossings in the state ÷ including the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel in Detroit and bridges in Port Huron and Sault Ste. Marie.

Smaller crossings include ferries at Marine City and Algonac in St. Clair County.

In the first days following the Sept. 11 attacks, heightened security at Michigan's border crossings caused delays of 12 to 15 hours. National Guard troops have been helping to staff the border and move vehicles across the border
Terror cell `had base in Canada'
Link revealed as charges laid in Sept. 11 attack
Donovan Vincent and William Walker
Staff reporters
Northern Alliance fighters enter what is believed to be a cave bunker used by Al Queada members. Laura J. Winter AP/Photo
 
Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network had a foothold in Canada, it is revealed in the first indictment laid against anyone in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Al Qaeda "maintained cells and personnel'' in a number of countries including Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Britain, Germany, Malaysia and the United States, according to the 30-page indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui released yesterday.

 

Security expert Norm Inkster, a former RCMP commissioner, said it is the first he's heard that Al Qaeda had a direct presence in this country.

 
"I haven't read anything suggesting Al Qaeda had cells or people here," Inkster said in an interview yesterday.
 

"I think it re-enforces the need for Canadians to be vigilant," he said, adding the new information suggests Canada is vulnerable to infiltration by groups like Al Qaeda.

The indictment, which contains six counts against Moussaoui, 33, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy, conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens, and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, doesn't elaborate on who the individuals in Canada are, or what they've done.

The French-born Moroccan was detained 25 days before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, but U.S. officials were unable to get him to tell them anything about the horrifying carnage about to occur.

Moussaoui will be arraigned Jan. 2 at the Alexandria, Va., Federal Court on six conspiracy charges related to the Sept. 11 attacks, four of which carry a maximum death penalty, the other two up to life imprisonment.

Several other individuals were named as co-conspirators, but not yet charged. They included alleged mastermind bin Laden.

Arrested Aug. 17 on a passport violation, law enforcement officials could get no information from Moussaoui.

That's despite the fact he'd arrived in America with $32,000 (U.S.) in cash and had taken pilot training lessons in Minnesota and Oklahoma, allegedly telling his tutors he wanted to fly a jumbo jet when he could barely manage to control a small plane.

On Sept. 11, in a Sherburne County, Minn. jail, Moussaoui is reported to have cheered as he watched the World Trade Center collapse.

"As soon as he saw it, he stood up, cheered, walked to his cell, and closed the door," a jail supervisor who gave his name only as Sgt. Olson told the Los Angeles Times. "On that same day, federal agents called and asked us to isolate him away from the other inmates." Moussaoui, born in France to Moroccan parents, was also the target of a 1994 French government probe into his links to suspected Algerian terrorists.

But when the British Home Office told France it didn't have enough evidence to justify a warrant to search his London apartment, the French government dropped the investigation.

Similarly, the FBI tried to get a judge to grant a warrant to search Moussaoui's computer files after his August arrest, but it was not granted.

Officials now know his computer contained information about crop dusting planes and the aerial application of pesticides, one way the Al Qaeda terrorists are suspected of having planned to attack the U.S. with chemical or biological weapons.

"He was not co-operative ... we got nothing from him," Mueller admitted to reporters yesterday of FBI interrogations of Moussaoui prior to Sept. 11.


Moussaoui `was not co-operative ... we got nothing from him'
In fact, Moussaoui bragged about his evasiveness in an October letter to his mother, while still in custody as a material witness in the Sept. 11 attacks. "I have not given them proof or witnesses of anything and with God's help, I will make it all look completely ridiculous, their plot which they are hatching," he wrote, in French.

Ashcroft said Moussaoui had been in the United States since last February "undergoing the same training, receiving the same funding and pledging the same commitment to kill Americans as the (19 other) hijackers." In fact U.S. officials now believe he would have been the 20th hijacker had he not been detained on the passport violation.

Whether Moussaoui had any Canadian connections is not known. But U.S. court documents show Moussaoui and jailed millennium plot bomber Ahmed Ressam, of Montreal, trained together at the same Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 1998.

Moussaoui's indictment says he trained at the Khalden Camp in April. Ressam testified at a New York trial last summer that he also trained at the Khalden Camp in April 1998.

Investigators have not linked the two. But Ressam said there were as few as 50 people at the camp, and never more than 100.

Ashcroft said the 30-page indictment handed down yesterday reads like a "chronicle of evil."

It details allegations that Moussaoui was trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan and that he received funding for his U.S.-based flight training from an Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany.

Moussaoui went to university in 1991, but dropped out after two years and moved to London, where he began attending a mosque in Brixton. He eventually obtained a business degree from London's South Bank University. Through the mid-1990s, Moussaoui was travelling often to Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He grew a beard and began wearing traditional Pakistani clothing. He was attending more radical mosques in London and speaking so much about the need for a jihad ÷ holy war ÷ against the West that he was asked to leave the moderate Brixton mosque.

By the end of the decade, Moussaoui had shaved his beard and returned to traditional western clothing, allegedly telling friends he needed to "blend in with the enemy."

On the night of Sept. 11, police finally raided his Brixton apartment in London, the same address he used when he began taking flight training in Oklahoma last February.

After logging nearly 60 hours of flight time but never soloing or earning a pilot's licence, Moussaoui quit and contacted Miami-based Pan Am International Flight Academy in May to arrange a jetliner training course at the school's Eagan, Minn., office.

Just before his arrest in August, officials claim the Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg wired Moussaoui more money to his Minnesota address.

Suspicion by his flight trainers caused them to alert the FBI about Moussaoui, leading to his arrest on a passport violation.

An Alexandria grand jury voted in favour of the charges against Moussaoui yesterday, and they were immediately announced by U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Police sources have told The Star that since Sept. 11, investigators have scrutinized names and addresses of some individuals in Canada believed to have connections to Al Qaeda.

The sources said an RCMP-led task force began investigating these suspects after Sept. 11. These suspects had been red-flagged by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It's not clear whether these are the individuals referred to in the indictment.


Train trouble

© 2001 WorldNetDaily.com

Five thousand to 10,000 unsearched, unchecked pressurized rail tanker cars are entering the U.S. every day from south of the border ö this amazing phenomenon may be the single greatest security threat facing our nation today.

While the feds are fumbling around putting on a great show of improved airline security, no one seems to know that all of America is completely vulnerable to the immediate threat that the railway system poses to every town across the country, every second of every day. If my recent column on the disastrous efforts to improve airline security bothered you, this column just may keep you up at night.

Every man, woman and child in our country is vulnerable at this very moment to deadly terrorist attacks due to the ongoing failures and corruption of the U.S. Customs Office. The facts are disturbingly simple: The rail yard in Guadalajara, Mexico, has been used for years as a major distribution center for drugs into the United States. This rail yard is controlled by the infamous Arellano-Felix cartel. An estimated 500 to 1,000 of the tanker rail cars that freely enter our country on any given day contain tons of narcotics ö and the U.S. Customs office, due to internal corruption, has failed to stop it.

Osama bin Laden controls the world's largest heroin crop which is located in Afghanistan, and he has used it for years to help finance his many crimes. His drugs, and other massive Middle East drug crops, have for years been shipped across the seas to train yards in South America and Mexico, and loaded onto trains headed our way.

Do we not realize that this same method may currently be in use for sending tons of chemical, biological or other warfare into the U.S.? At the very least, these highly pressurized tanker cars, designed to carry hazardous, explosive materials, would easily make the world's largest pipe bombs.

It's so very easy. Those who lease the tanker cars can set up their orders via the Internet or over the phone. No measures are in place to identify who the customer is ö get a fake ID, establish a phony front company and presto! Automatic access to America's railways is achieved. The tanker cars are then controlled remotely as they move through the maze of thousands of railroad tracks and "spurs" that snake through every major and many minor towns in the nation.

Virtually every center of economic activity, every branch of local, state and national government, every large population group is located within a mile of one of these spurs. Get in your car and drive to the nearest railway yard, depot or station and you'll see the long, oval-shaped, usually black (but sometimes white) tanker cars. Then, imagine what's in them ö you can bet a master-mind like bin Laden has been pondering their many uses for quite some time. Customs and railroad brokers receive no training in terrorist tactics or profiling, so even the honest agent-on-the-ground has been left helpless by the very system he or she is working for.

Allowing drugs to flood our nation through the railway system is one obvious reason we have lost the "war on drugs." It could very well be the reason why we might also lose the "war on terrorism."

My good friend Gary Aldrich of the Patrick Henry Center recently introduced me to a real American hero who was thwarted in her efforts to tighten-up our borders. An 11-year veteran of the United States Customs Service, former agent Darlene Catalan resigned her position in protest after blowing the whistle about the corruption and ineffectiveness of the customs department in halting the flow of illegal drugs into our country via the railways. As a review of her biography reveals, her credentials are impeccable, as is her record of service ö that is, until she became a whistleblower.

In the spring of 1998, she led a large undercover rail operation with the Union Pacific Railroad Police, the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad Police and the San Bernardino Police Department. A federal prosecutor was assigned to the project, and it was given the top-ranked OCDETF status. After having successfully seized 32 kilos of cocaine and 8,000 pounds of marijuana from a pressurized tanker car, this brave and amazing agent was able to uncover the huge distribution operation in the Guadalajara rail yard.

Just as she and her co-workers were about to nail the bad guys, the U.S. Customs managers torpedoed the efforts. Man-power was abruptly pulled, surveillance was halted and the same courageous agents that nearly broke the ring became the target of numerous frivolous investigations by their own agency. Subsequent other investigations into tanker cars were also halted, resulting in dozens of previously identified suspect cars being released into the U.S. population. The good guys resigned from the agency in protest, and these havens for drugs and explosives have been entering our country unfettered ever since.

In a recent conversation with Catalan she said, "The U.S. customs agency is the only agency that has the authority to search huge containers (and human beings) without a search warrant. It's called Border Search Authority. The obvious question we must ask ourselves is, 'What are they doing with this incredible power?' The disturbing answer is that agency individuals often use it for their own benefit."

Then she went on with a chilling summary: "Working for U.S. Customs was like working for the Mafia. If you kiss the Don's ring and are a 'yes person,' you will go far. If you refuse to compromise your integrity, you'll get nailed by internal affairs. Organized crime is effective because they always have an enforcement arm ö the enforcement arm for U.S. Customs is the Internal Affairs division. Its tremendous power is what usually keeps officers and agents from blowing the whistle."

Because the U.S. Customs Agency is the front-line defense for what does and does not enter or leave our country, our national security is severely weakened and U.S. borders are wide-open for terrorist business. Catalan has so many examples of customs corruption she's even authored a book called "U.S. Customs ö Badge of Dishonor." (Click here for more immediate information on U.S. Customs corruption.)

In the meantime, start screaming bloody murder at your elected officials and demand action. An unsearched tanker car is headed to a track near you.


Felonies If Anyone Retaliates Against Government Agents or Witnesses

 Title 18 U.S.C. Section 4. These are felonies under the following statutes:

Title 18 U.S.C. ' 111. Impeding certain officers or employees. 

18 USC 111

CITE

18 USC Sec. 111   1/03/95

EXPCITE

TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE PART I CRIMES CHAPTER 7 - ASSAULT

HEAD

Sec. 111. Assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers or employees

STATUTE

(a) In General. - Whoever -

 (1) forcibly assaults, resists, opposes, impedes, intimidates, or interferes with any person designated in section 1114 of this title while engaged in or on account of the performance of official duties; or

(2) forcibly assaults or intimidates any person who formerly served as a person designated in section 1114 on account of the performance of official duties during such person's term of service, shall, where the acts in violation of this section constitute only simple assault, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both, and in all other cases, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.


Title 18 U.S.C. ' 372. Conspiracy to impede or injure officer

If two or more persons in any State, Territory, Possession, or District conspire to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from accepting or holding any office, trust, or place of confidence under the United States, or from discharging any duties thereof, or to induce by like means any officer of the United States top leave the place, where his duties as an officer are required to be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof, or to injure his property so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties, each of such persons shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than six years, or both. This section also applies to former government agents.


Title 18 U.S.C. ' 1505. Whoever corruptly ... influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due the proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States ... shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. 

Title 18 U.S.C. ' 1505 applies to anyone who corruptly attempts by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States. They do not have to succeed to have committed a federal crime; the attempt or scheme (conspire) to do so is criminal.


Title 18 U.S.C. ' 1512. Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant.

(b) Whoever knowingly uses intimidation or physical force, or threatens another person, or attempts to do so, or engages in misleading conduct toward another person, with intent to:

(1) influence, delay or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding:

shall be fined ... or imprisoned ... or both. [1988 amended reading]"


Title 18 U.S.C. ' 1513. Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant. 

(a) Whoever knowingly engages in any conduct and thereby causes bodily injury to another person or damages the tangible property of another person, or threatens to do so, with intent to retaliate against any person for €€(1) the attendance of a witness or party at an official proceeding, or any testimony given or any record, document, or other object produced by a witness in an official proceeding; or (2) any information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense ..."


I. Title 18 U.S.C. ' 1515. Definitions of terms in criminal statutes (as used in sections 1512 and 1513).

(a)(2) the term "physical force" means physical action against another and includes confinement; [including prison.]

(a)(3) the term "misleading conduct" means knowingly making a false statement;

(B) intentionally omitting information from a statement and thereby causing a portion of such statement to be misleading, or intentionally concealing a material fact, and thereby creating a false impression by such statement; (C) with intent to mislead, knowingly submitting or inviting reliance on a writing or recording that is false ... or otherwise lacking in authenticity; (D) with intent to mislead, knowingly submitting or inviting reliance on a ... object that is misleading in a material respect; or (E) knowingly using a trick, scheme, or device with intent to mislead;

(4) the term "law enforcement officer" means an officer or employee of the Federal Government, or a person authorized to act for or on behalf of the Federal Government or serving the Federal Government as an adviser or consultant. authorized under law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of an offense;

(5) the term "bodily injury" means any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary.

(a)(1) the term "official proceeding" means ...

(C) a proceeding before a Federal Government agency which is authorized by law. [FAA included.]


18 U.S.C. ' 1515 (a)(3)(A). Misleading conduct means knowingly making false statements.


 

 


A DIFFERENT BEAT: A Coast Guard unit from St. Petersburg, Fla., protects Boston's harbor after Sept. 11. as the war on terrorism takes priority over drug enforcement.
STEVEN SENNE/AP

Drug traffic off Florida spikes as US turns its focus to terrorism

Shift of antidrug resources to guard against terrorists has increased the boldness of narcotics trafficking.

| Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

- When the Caribbean became a superhighway for drug trafficking in the 1980s, it became the inspiration for a TV show - "Miami Vice." Today, the azure waters of Florida are once again threatening to become a major artery in the narcotics trade. As US antidrug authorities have shifted their resources to the porous borders of Mexico and Canada over recent years, drug smugglers have been prompted to once again test the waters of the Sunshine State. Where's Crockett and Tubbs when you need 'em?

Even more alarming is how Sept. 11 has opened the floodgates in these pristine waters. With terrorism a top priority, no longer are US boats so vigilantly patrolling the coastal waters in search of drugs. Large amounts of antidrug resources and manpower have been diverted to that effort. The result: a boomtime for drug peddlers off America's coastlines.

"We've got the makings for a real upsurge in drug trafficking and an inability to cope with it," says William Walker, a professor of history and international relations at Florida International University in Miami. "They are seeing [drug-running] speed boats they haven't seen in south Florida in 20 years."

Indeed, the Coast Guard has seen its drug seizures plummet since crews were sent to guard ports and oil refineries. Well over half of the Coast Guard's anti-drug activities were redirected after Sept. 11, causing a 66 percent drop in cocaine seizures from a year ago, and a more than 90 percent drop in marijuana seizures. Experts say that the redeployment of resources is even affecting the Pacific coast, where drug traffickers are attempting routes they haven't tried in decades - or even creating new ones.

"One consequence of our shifting efforts is going to be less drug interdiction on the oceans, which creates an opening for traffickers," says Peter Andreas, a professor of international studies at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

FBI agents are now spending much of their time chasing the money trail of Osama bin Laden instead of the money trail of drug lords. Customs surveillance planes and radar, once used to detect drug transit routes, are now devoted to counter-terrorism surveillance. And many DEA agents have been reassigned to airport security or as sky marshals.

"Unfortunately, this is the way this game is played," says Stan Furce, director of the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. "The bad guys are always trying to get drugs into the US where they think they will get the most payoff. They know the Coast Guard has pulled back, and they are taking advantage of that."

But, Mr. Furce and other drug-fighting agencies are optimistic that things are beginning to return to normal and that agents will soon resume regular duties.

Experts, however, warn that a number of international factors were already wreaking havoc on the war on drugs before Sept. 11, and will continue to do so even with beefed-up drug control.

First of all, the price of coffee has plummeted on the world market, leaving many farmers in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru to turn to coca and opium-poppy cultivation. Compounding the problem is a deepening recession in much of Latin America. And many of the US-funded eradication programs are suffering.

It's still unclear whether that has meant an increase in production. For instance, the price of cocaine on the streets of Houston hasn't changed since Sept. 11 - still running at about $1,600 to $1,700 a kilo - indicating a steady stream of supply.

"It's just too early to tell," says Dr. Andreas. "Because drug traffickers have large stockpiles of drugs on both sides of the border, we won't necessarily see a change in price this quickly."

But one thing is for certain: The increased security along the Mexican and Canadian borders is making traffickers nervous. Many have been caught carrying significantly larger loads since Sept. 11, contrary to the most recent trend of moving a lot of little loads. "It seems the smugglers are getting a little more brazen in trying to pass larger loads at one time," says south Texas Customs spokesman Rick Pauza.

Tractor-trailers are the new method of choice. Recently, for instance, Laredo Customs inspectors discovered a 2,349-pound load of marijuana in a truck. A day earlier, inspectors found 49 pounds of cocaine in Eagle Pass. The combined street value in seizures for that weekend was $5.6 million.

As opposed to dwindling seizure activity in the Caribbean and Pacific Coast, seizures along the Mexican border have been rising ever since Sept. 11. That is due to the heightened border security.

The Bush administration says it won't have hard narcotics numbers until sometime this month. But no matter what those numbers show, experts worry that a greater focus on terrorism is bound to mean a decrease in funding for counter-drug efforts.

"Priorities within the Defense Department are clearly shifting, as are the assets used to combat drug trafficking," says Eric Olson, a senior associate in the Washington Office on Latin America. "That is going to pose a lot of questions."

 

Raids bust heroin ring from Mexico

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

Big Island Police and US Customs Agents lead 10 suspects at Hilo Airport to a National Guard helicopter headed for Honolulu. The suspects were arrested during "Operation Island Pipeline."

Tim Wright š Special to The Honolulu Advertiser

HILO, Hawaii ÷ Law enforcement officials conducted 17 simultaneous drug raids on Oahu and the Big Island yesterday to conclude a 13-month investigation into heroin trafficking from Mexico.

At least 16 people were expected to be arrested, officials said during a press conference in Hilo. They are due to appear today in U.S. District Court on a various drug and money laundering charges.

Information on the suspects and details of the charges were not available yesterday as the search warrants and indictments in what has been dubbed Operation Island Pipeline remained sealed. Those arrested include Hawaii residents and Mexican nationals who are in the country illegally, officials said.

"We have totally dismantled this organization," said Lt. Henry Tavares of the Hawaii County Police Department's vice squad. "There will be a lot of addicts looking for methadone soon or seeking out their doctors for help."

Big Island police during the summer reported an alarming rise in arrests and drug seizures involving black-tar heroin and crystal methamphetamine, noting a corresponding escalation in violence. Police department statistics show a tenfold increase in the number of people arrested for heroin possession from 1997 to 2000. Crystal meth arrests were up 431 percent during the same period.

Police said heroin and crystal methamphetamine had overtaken cocaine and marijuana as the county's top drug-enforcement concerns, and that some drug users had begun combining heroin and "ice" to ease the effects of coming off a crystal meth high.

Operation Island Pipeline targeted first-level distributors. Officials yesterday displayed photos of the suspected ring leaders in Mexico, but would not name them. Whether the alleged kingpins are extradited to the United States for prosecution ultimately will be up to Mexican government officials, they said.

Over the course of the Hawaii investigation, 20 pounds of black-tar heroin and $166,000 in cash were seized, along with smaller amounts of cocaine and marijuana, said Mike Cox, supervisory special agent for Hawaii for the U.S. Customs Service. He said that represents only a small fraction of the $2 million worth of heroin the drug ring distributed annually during the four years it was in operation here.

Since the investigation was launched Thanksgiving weekend 2000, 18 people had been arrested prior to yesterday's raids. Some of the suspects in the earlier cases already have been deported, Cox said.

A dozen federal, state and county agencies were involved in the investigation, including the Customs Service, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. attorney and all four county police departments.

Tavares credited Big Island police detective Marshall Kanehailua with a major breakthrough in the case through his arrest of a suspect in March who provided valuable information to move the investigation forward.

Yesterday's dawn raids were conducted at 10 residences in East Hawaii, two in Kona and five on Windward Oahu. Fifteen firearms were seized at one of the Oahu homes.

Big Island suspects were rounded up and taken to the Hawaii National Guard Armory in Hilo and later flown by military helicopters to Oahu and transferred to the federal detention facility in Honolulu.

Cox said the Mexican ring members brought the heroin into the United States on foot and by vehicle through the Tijuana-San Ysidro border crossing in California. The heroin was then hidden in waist belts worn by drug couriers who flew from Los Angeles to Honolulu and on to Hilo on inter-island flights.

The heroin was taken to rented homes in Volcano, Mountain View and Kea'au in the Puna District, where it was processed for statewide distribution, he said.

Profits from drug sales were sent back to Mexico via Western Union in amounts usually less than $1,000 to avoid detection, Cox said. Any transfer of more than $3,000 has to be registered with the IRS.

Tavares said local accomplices leased homes, rented cars and carried the heroin from island to island. He said the alleged drug ring chose the rural Puna District because it is isolated and quiet, and newcomers do not readily stand out.

"These people do not want to attract attention. They drive their fancy cars in Mexico," Cox said.

Containers holding the drugs were wrapped in black electrical tape and stashed among yard plants.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled supervisory special agent for Hawaii for the U.S. Customs Service Mike Cox's name as Mike Michaelcox.