Narco News Alert: Narco-Corruption at U.S. Customs
Narco News,  August 4, 2001

Ex-Agent Files Federal Lawsuit. Accusation: $250,000 bribes to let cocaine trucks pass and Sec. Rubin did nothing.

The Narco News Bulletin has obtained a copy of a federal lawsuit filed this week in United States Court in San Diego, California, by former U.S. Customs agent John Carman against the Customs Service Commissioner, the U.S. Treasury Secretary and various federal and local police officials.

In the interest of the public's right to know about public documents, Narco News has published the entire suit here.

The accusations by Officer Carman reach to the highest levels of law-enforcement, all the way to Washington DC, where the blame for the entrance of cocaine and other illegal drugs into the United States is loudly heaped upon corruption in Latin American countries, that, U.S. officials too often insist, stands at stark contrast with their own supposedly sincere efforts at drug enforcement.

But, according to Officer Carman - veteran of the U.S. Agency charged with interdicting drugs at the Mexican border - U.S. officials have known about a well-oiled corruption machine within the Customs service for years, in which drug traffickers are routinely charged big-money bribes in exchange for the passage of large shipments of cocaine into the United States at the Otay Mesa border checkpoint between Mexico and California.

U.S. Customs Whistle Blower John Carman

Carman - who has been in contact with The Narco News Bulletin since last year - blew the whistle on officials who he has accused of complicity in this cocaine corruption crisis within the Agency. According to his lawsuit, Customs officials, instead of taking his evidence seriously, instead turned against him, demoted him, fired him, and then, in conjunction with local police officials, persecuted him in a search operation later ruled illegal by a state judge.

One prominent civil rights attorney to whom Narco News gave a copy of Carman's lawsuit commented: "This lawsuit is on strong legal grounds and could succeed." But the attorney cautioned that the road for Officer Carman, in bringing this historic suit, could be long and expensive "before causing the shake-up at Customs that it should provoke" or bringing justice to the Plaintiff.

Shooting the Messenger

The Complaint, filed on Carman's behalf by Attorney Joel C. Golden of San Diego, alleges that Officer Carman "has been subjected to discrimination in the terms and conditions of his employment, unlawful termination and to retaliation by Customs employees and specific employees named herein, on the basis of his being a 'Whistleblower.'"

Carman began work as a Customs Agent in 1983, already a law enforcement veteran who labored the United States Mint Police, the U.S. Secret Service and the San Diego Police Department. In 1989 he was promoted to be Senior Custom's Inspector. In 1997, after he had attempted to alert superiors of the systematic bribe-taking and other narco-corruption within the Agency, he received, according to the lawsuit, "pressure from his superiors" to accept, under protest, a lesser position as Import Specialist. By that time, the complaint states, he suffered a medical condition arising from the inhalation of automobile fumes at the San Ysidro-Tijuana Point of Entry.

The complaint alleges that the discrimination and retaliation has been continuous against Carman even after he was fired by the Customs Service, and that the Customs Service violated its own policy of confidentiality for agents who report or allege illegal behavior by officials within the agency. "Beginning on or about June 1995," according to the complaint now on file at the U.S. District Court in San Diego, Carman had "filed formal complaints with the U.S. Treasury Department alleging discrimination based on being a 'Whistle Blower' and retaliation for his involvement in making 'confidential disclosures' which were subsequently improperly disclosed to members of high ranking officials that were in fact the subject of the 'confidential disclosures' and he made further disclosures relating to officials accepting money and other illegal activities."

"The same 'persons' that were the subject of the confidential disclosures, conspired to have Plaintiff removed from his position creating a 'hostile work environment' and subsequently Plaintiff was fired/ 'forced to resign'." The words in quotations - Whistle Blower, Confidential Disclosures, Hostile Work Environment, Forced to Resign - come from explicit federal statutes, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and federal statutes to protect Whistle Blowers, upon which the lawsuit is based.

And yet, despite the rhetoric in Washington about routing out corruption in law enforcement, officials at the highest levels of the Customs Service and the Treasury Department were, according to the lawsuit, negligent or complicit in illegal acts, including a systematic system for receiving bribes to allow cocaine shipments into the country

Read the full article on Narco News here.

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