Ever since the early nineties, when I was trying to do enforcement without the "support" of most of the Supervisory Customs Inspectors, I finally had to make suggestions to compensate for our "downfalls" and "inconsistencies" as a way to "positively" alleviate some of the major enforcement problems.
One of these suggestions that I received a Commissioner's Award for was for the Line Release Program which is used Nationally throughout the Customs Service. This suggestion of mine was tied in to the other suggestions I made to help catch Fugitives and Customs related smugglers at the Nation's Borders. These suggestions go back to 1989 and up to 1995. Ultimately the last suggestions I made were in mid 1997. This particular suggestion had to be "resubmitted' again in 1993 after former District Director Rappoport took no apparent action on it. It was also tied in with another suggestion I had on doing "background" checks on all Customs approved truck drivers under the Line Release Program.
There was a special incident that occurred in the time frame of about 1989. There were large narcotics shipments, stolen cars, stolen commercial trucks, commercial trucks with "specially made compartments for smuggling" and all kinds of related activity happening at the Commercial entry at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa entry and exit points. The smugglers were "ripping" us blind. We did not get the support we needed to do all of the necessary basics to make sure that our own Customs compound was secure enough to prevent further manipulation by the very smart drug cartels.
I have personally seen many situations where we have caught several truck drivers who had active NCIC warrants and criminal histories for narcotics. We were letting this guys drive commercial sized vehicles into our compound without even so much as a five minute check on the computer. We were, and still are understaffed in my opinion. This staffing problem will never seem to change. Now days there are certain set procedures that the commercial truck drivers have to adhere to in order to be checked out more seriously in order to prevent future smuggling activities. Unfortunately, a lot of the Mexican drivers are from Mexico, where their criminal history information was not automated yet. There is no proof that they are current as of this date , but I understand that Mexico is moving towards automation soon, if not, already. These types of records include Department of Motor Vehicles, Criminal Histories and other related information systems that we need to operate by as a "standard". However, in Mexico, information is not secure and they do not follow or have a set standard procedure for recording information that needs to be shared with other similar enforcement agencies. This is a current problem with Mexico.
It is common knowledge among "border related criminals" that you can apply for a different Mexican drivers license every time you want to change your name. I have personally caught a Mexican "Biker" that had five Mexican drivers licenses in his possession. Each name was different, but it was his photograph in all of the pictures. (Can you imagine if he gets stopped by the same police officer for a moving violation?) he has to remember which license he used last time. I guess that's why it's harder to lie, because you have to remember what story you told everyone.
Anyway, smuggling techniques are constantly changing as have the apprehension techniques. They have seriously changed over the last 5 years and I see some things are improving a "little". Technology is finally being used in "most" all drug related enforcement actions, as well as the Inspector's keen sense of narcotics related detection techniques. (behavioral analysis) You have commercial size X-Ray machine for vehicles to drive through, Barringer Ion Scans, and many more state of the art detection devices. Hopefully it won't let the new Inspectors get lazy and depend too much on the technological advances more than their senses. It all still boils down to the human driver and human responses by smugglers.
One category of smugglers that we sort of lose sight of but do not frequently talk about are the "law enforcement" related smugglers.
There was one case where I personally caught a former IRS agent smuggling Amazon parrots into the United States from Mexico in his motorhome. This was after 1986 when I transferred to San Diego from Calexico.
Several other law enforcement smugglers that I caught were either smuggling firearms, illegals, guns, or steroids and worked as Peace Officers for other State, County, Local or Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. I got a reputation early on since 1983 in Calexico when I was catching some of the Mexican Customs Chiefs smuggling cases of liquor around Christmas time. But I did not restrict my enforcement of Customs Laws on anyone because they were either L.E.O.'s, famous movie stars, or high ranking military officials.
I have even caught the son of a Mexican Diplomat (A-2 status) smuggling "undeclared" restricted pharmaceuticals and Darvon in his brand new Porsche with Diplomatic plates. You have to understand, that when a person hands you his passport or entry document and he starts shaking like a leaf, maybe he needs to get "looked" at a little closer. The second time I caught the "girlfriend" driving the Mexican ambassador's son's car. She has no diplomatic status whatsoever and can not use the vehicle with Diplomatic license plates. I had to release the car ultimately because Customs Supervisors got concerned that I might find something and cause an "incident".
There were two more important incidents that I would like to relay to you before closing with regards to other law enforcement related smuggling. I have seen a lot with regards to our Brothers in the Law Enforcement field, but I really didn't want to see it happen to one of us. In the past, I have seen too many Customs, Immigration and other Federal agents doing questionable things. Some got arrested and are doing "time" in a penal institution somewhere. I know of a few that I had to work with and they always steered clear of me for some reason. I guess they didn't like my "enforcement politics". (I inspected everybody that deserved it and I got results too)
One thing that really concerns me is, no matter how hard we all work to stop the drugs from coming in, there is always someone else who is willing to "sell out" their country. I have seen at least 15 Customs and INS Inspectors or Agents over the last 15 years who got arrested and convicted for smuggling related offenses and bribery or conspiracy.
I have seen where there were immediate family relatives of a Customs co-worker(s) that got caught smuggling a trunk load of marijuana. This particular Customs employee was "reassigned' to other more administrative duties to get him off of the "Line". I realize that we can't control what others do but there seems to be a different standard for certain people that geOne incident involves the son of a local San Diego Customs Broker that was caught driving an empty truck through the Otay Mesa Commercial facility a couple of years ago. (around 1996) The K-9's units on duty were doing a routine check of the empty vehicles that usually cross in the morning in great numbers at Otay Mesa. One empty commercial truck was driven by the son of one of the Customs Brokers here in San Diego. The K-9 dog alerted to the walls and "stood up" indicating something was high up in the container. A further search revealed cocaine in the roof top compartment according to other "Customs sources". What happens next is most revealing.
After the son of the Broker is processed, arrested and eventually convicted, the incident and related paperwork to the line release documentation is "covered up" and locked away in a special safe. You see, since the Broker is on "Line Release" "special consideration" was given by the CMC Director to keep the Customs Broker on the Line Release Program. After violating the Line release restrictions the driver is then permanently restricted from ever entering or driving into any U.S. Customs Compound. Since this was "family" of a Customs Broker, the procedure would be to exclude the Business that was involved too. This was not done. Under these circumstances, special consideration was given. Furthermore, the special Line Release "File" was "removed" from the Customs Line Release Coordinator's Office to the CMC's Director's Office of Rudy M. Camacho. (Go figure that one out)