Posted: June 8, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Darlene Fitzgerald-Catalan
© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com
The media has been abuzz recently with the story of whistleblower Coleen Rowley, the FBI special agent who called Director Mueller on the recent fumble on terrorist threats. Let me start off by stating that I, too, commend Agent Rowley for her bravery in becoming a whistleblower - for I know firsthand the risk one takes in the federal government when making the decision to come forward.
What I would like for someone to explain to me is why this whistleblower is getting well-deserved attention by the mainstream media when stories like mine that happened mostly under the Clinton administration have gotten little or no attention.
I was a U.S. Customs special agent when I resigned in disgust in October 1999. I and several of my coworkers had come forward with information regarding not only a valid terrorist threat, but we also had identified what we felt was high-level corruption within Customs.
This threat involved the potential for terrorists to use pressurized rail tanker cars as instruments of destruction. While running a counter-narcotics smuggling operation in Southern California, I found that narco traffickers were using rail tanker cars to import literally tons of illegal narcotics into the country.
These suspicions were confirmed when I seized 8,000 pounds of marijuana and 34 kilos of cocaine in one of these cars. As a result of this high-level, multi-taskforce investigation, we were shocked at the ease with which the narco traffickers accomplished not only the smuggling of these narcotics into the U.S., but also the delivery to their destinations in the U.S. via these rail cars. With phony I.D. and cash, the deliveries were easily made over the Internet or via telephone with the railroads' customer service departments.
In 1999, years before 9-11, we concluded that our nation was at serious risk of terrorist attacks. It would be easy for terrorists simply to copy the modus operandi of the narco traffickers and send these cars to any rail spur in the U.S. - loaded with explosives, bio-hazards or a combination thereof.
Over two years ago, we took these concerns - as well as our concerns of corrupt Customs managers - to the FBI, Office of Special Council, the Commissioner of Customs and to several senators and congressional leaders. In fact, 24 Customs employees signed a letter begging for an investigation into what we all felt was outright corruption, obstruction and violation of civil rights in Southern California. This letter was sent to California Sen. Diane Feinstein through certified mail. Not only did Sen. Feinstein fail to initiate an investigation into our allegations, approximately two weeks after her office received this letter, she was seen on a Customs yacht with one of the very managers against whom we were making these allegations.
I saw Sen. Feinstein on national television yesterday and heard her make a number of accusatory comments about the Bush administration, giving the perception that the administration had dropped the ball on the 9-11 incident. I find it appalling to hear Sen. Feinstein make such hypocritical statements when she herself refused to act on the information we were trying to surface during the Clinton administration.
The retaliation has been tremendous and well-documented. In fact, this is one case in which a former federal prosecutor - now a Superior Court judge - was witness to much of the corruption and terrorist threats that we identified. This case is well-documented - with many credible witnesses - yet, my brave coworkers and I suffer.
With the exception of The Patrick Henry Center (a non-profit organization in Fairfax, Va.) offering us much-needed protection and help, our story has been virtually swept under the rug. As a result of the extreme retaliation we received from U.S. Customs, so far the whistleblowers involved in our specific case have become cannon fodder.
Why is this FBI whistleblower receiving so much attention? Please understand, I heartily believe that she deserves and needs this attention and protection. But why have the rest of us been virtually thrown to the wolves by the mainstream media and our elected officials? My life and career were destroyed by the U.S. Customs Service when I did the right thing and came forward with this critical information about our national security.
Can someone please explain to me why we have fallen victim to yet another political war for doing the right thing, but when Coleen Rowley becomes a whistleblower she is celebrated by the mainstream media and "concerned" politicians?
Darlene Fitzgerald-Catalan is a former special agent with the U.S. Customs Service and the author of "U.S. Customs: Badge of Dishonor."
URL too long to post.
The following affidavit is a sworn statement of Darlene Fitzgerald-Catalan given on September 18, 2001, in the State of Kentucky. This statement is on behalf of The Government Accountability Project (GAP), Washington, D.C. in support of Senate Hearings for the Whistleblower Protection Act (Senate Bill # S. 995).
In October 1999, I resigned from the U.S. Customs Service, after having been subjected to retaliation, intimidation, threats, and harassment on an enormous scale. This abusive treatment of me was the result of becoming a witness to a legitimate EEO complaint of my co-worker Ruben Sandoval, as well as being a whistleblower to corruption I identified. Not only did I leave because of the treatment that I was being subjected to, but it was extremely difficult to watch other Customs employees who had come to my defense, receive this same kind of treatment resulting from their honesty and loyalty. I loved my job as a Special Agent, and leaving Customs I found was most difficult to bear. Being a Special Agent, working the types of cases that I had the great fortune to work, was truly a dream come true for me. This was my dream job, and very much a part of who I was. I left only because I honestly felt that I had no choice, and refused to work for people in this agency that were worse than the people I had put in jail.
It is important to note that prior to my whistle blowing activities I had completed over nine years of excellent service with U.S. Customs. Additionally, I was an honorably discharged, decorated veteran (Captain) with the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. My career with the military and with Customs was most exemplary, and I had NO negative counseling statements or disciplinary actions of any kind in any of my files. I was commonly referred to by many as a “Rising Star” in the Customs Service, with many record-breaking seizures and numerous arrests. My ratings both in the military in Customs were always above average. In short, I was not a mediocre disgruntled employee known for being a whiner and complainer. Many very credible supervisors, federal and state prosecutors, fellow special agents, and co-workers from outside law enforcement agencies will testify that this is so.
My partner/Office mate Special Agent Ruben Sandoval, was a Latin male. Ruben came to our office several years after I had already been at the RAIC/RV (Resident Agent In Charge) Riverside, California. I witnessed him being discriminated against by our managers, specifically our group supervisor -----------, in extreme ways. This included him repeatedly being put behind the wheel of government assigned vehicles that weren’t safe. As soon as SA Sandoval filed his EEO complaint, the blatant retaliation to him began. This retaliation was not only from Riverside management but also at the SAIC (Special Agent In Charge) level and higher.
Several months after I had come forward on SA Sandoval’s behalf, I was running a large Rail operation entitled Operation ------------. Under the umbrella of this operation, I was the case agent on two criminal cases being worked by a multi-agency task force that I had put together: Operation -----------, and ---------- International enterprises. The Burlington Northern / Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad Police, the Union Pacific (UP) Railroad Police, and the San Bernardino Police Department were working with me on this project. The United States Attorneys Office had assigned a Federal Prosecutor to us, Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Yvette Palazuelos. This project required me to organize training for the officers involved, which included training on rail car operations, and the railroad’s computer tracking system, the ------- System. AUSA Palazuelos also attended this training, and was a real “hands on”, knowledgeable, hard-charging prosecutor.
Under Operation --------------, we had identified that approximately 11 million dollars of Customs In-bond shipments had been stolen from railroad boxcars in San Bernardino County, in a period of approximately one year. Through the use of informants we had made several arrest, and seized approximately $500 thousand dollars of stolen equipment back from the crooks.
Under ---- International, I had seized 8 thousand pounds of marijuana, and 32 kilos of cocaine, in a pressurized rail tanker car. Through the use of HIGH LEVEL informant information, and the execution of subsequent federal search warrants on locations involved in this seizure, we learned that there was a large rail yard in Guadalajara. This rail yard was being used as the major distribution center for tons and tons of narcotics that were destined for the U.S. via railroad pressurized tanker cars. This rail yard was under the direct control of the infamous Arellano-Felix Cartel, and the narcotics that I seized were Arellano-Felix dope.
These Tanker cars serve as the perfect smuggling container for the cartels. They can only be inspected safely at two locations at the Southern border of the U.S., Dallas, Texas and Colton, California. This is because of the type of commodities that these containers normally carry is considered to be hazardous materials, and must be inspected at these locations where they can be professionally rendered safe by hazardous materials certified individuals before examination. Additionally, the Dallas and Colton locations are the only two places where there are rail car scales, which can accurately weigh these containers. Weighing these rail cars is paramount to ascertaining if the cars should be considered suspect.
Additionally, I had it set up with the Colton rail yard operated by UP, that we could conduct what is known as a pressure test on the cars, at no cost to the government. A pressure test of these cars is also extremely paramount to the determination whether or not we should inspect the cars. This evaluation process is most necessary due to the fact that it is extremely expensive (anywhere between 8 and 14 thousand dollars per car) to the taxpayers to inspect these cars for potential narcotics. Now add to this that fact that these cars can be tracked by the shipper remotely via the Internet, and can be easily rerouted remotely via the Internet or a simple telephone call. This makes it very difficult for Special Agents to divert these cars from their destined routs for evaluation for inspection, without the smugglers immediately knowing that their cars have been tampered with. For these reasons, these cars are rarely inspected, and the smugglers are well aware of that.
As I attempted to move forward in these two criminal cases (both under the umbrella of Operation -----), my Customs managers began to torpedo my efforts. In the seizure of the pressurized tanker car containing the 8 thousand pounds of marijuana and 32 kilos of cocaine, I attempted to conduct a controlled delivery to San Bernardino, CA. Much to AUSA Palazuelos and my surprise and dismay, our efforts were completely thwarted/torpedoed by Customs management. This was just the tip of the iceberg. I was completely undermined repeatedly in my efforts to continue this large and thus far successful rail operation. My help was pulled, my surveillance was pulled, and I was submitted to one frivolous Internal Affairs investigation after another. Keep in mind, that prior to my whistle blowing, our office never saw an IA Agent conducting an investigation at our office for almost 9 years. Then there were repeated I.A visits/investigations of myself and/or anyone who continued to assist me on this operation. Additionally, during this time frame, people that were obviously much less qualified than I passed me over twice for promotion. My federal prosecutor, AUSA Yvette Palazuelos, certainly took notice to this, and was visibly livid. AUSA Palazuelos even confronted one of our group supervisors, ---------------, at a rail operation meeting in her office. In a room full of witnesses she point blank asked him who was torpedoing our rail project. --------- answered that it was SAIC -----------. This was the same SAIC that we can prove with documentation and witness testimony, that was orchestrating the blatant reprisal that many of us were receiving.
Subsequently, I refused to give into the extreme pressure/harassment that I was under, and continued on with my investigations. I had identified five more suspect pressurized tanker cars. I had solid information that these cars were highly suspect, and should have been inspected. I routed the cars to the Colton UP rail yard where they were weighed. These cars were manifested as empty, and were 5 to 9 TONS OVER MANUFACTURERS LIGHT WEIGHT. I had it all set up to have them pressure tested, and was ordered off the case. Senior Special Agent Robert Mattivi (retired), and UP Special Agent Robert Nett both witnessed that my RAIC (Resident Agent In Charge) --------------, ordered me not to do my job. Subsequently, these cars were released into the commerce of the U.S. without being inspected. With the overwhelming amount of evidence that these cars were loaded with narcotics, THESE TANKER CARS SHOULD HAVE NEVER LEFT THAT RAIL YARD WITHOUT FURTHER REVIEW!!!!!!!
This prompted me to take a closer look at my “Customs Holds” on ACS (Customs Automated System) that I had previously placed on other suspected companies who were importing/exporting pressurized tanker cars. I had placed holds on several suspect companies that would require that their tanker cars imported into the U.S. must be sent to the Colton rail yard to be weighed. NOTE: When a Customs Special Agent places a Customs Hold on any container/vehicle entering the U.S., it is Customs policy that no one can override that hold without prior notification to the Special Agent. Additionally, only a Supervisory Inspector can override an Agents hold, and they must provide a four- digit identification code on (ACS).
What I found as a result of my ACS checking was shocking. I found that someone had been overriding my Customs holds on literally dozens of tanker cars from suspected companies. Who ever did this was in violation of Customs policy, and conveniently failed to place their four-digit identification code as also required by policy. Another words, over the course of the prior six to eight months, over 100 suspected tanker cars entered the U.S. without even being weighed, complements of someone in U.S. Customs. I went to the BNSF (Burlington Northern / Sante Fe) Special Agents office, and tracked the routs of some of these cars. I was further amazed of just how extremely suspect it was that these cars were routed in the manner that would only make sense if one were trying to conceal something in them. This was, at the very least, Obstruction of Justice.
This was just the tip of the ice burg concerning the absolute corruption that I found myself unwittingly walking into. Now add to this debacle the extreme measures that the seven of us Customs employees engaged in order to attempt to get this investigated, to no avail. This effort included the seven of us meeting with a Special Agent of the FBI’s Public Corruption Unit, in San Diego, CA. This too went nowhere. The more I attempted to pursue this issue, the more I was threatened and harassed. At one point I even received a very threatening letter in the mail at my home.
At the same time that many of us had our suspicions about SAIC --------, and his direct involvement with undermining Operation ---------, another Customs employee ASAIC Bill Gaitley, was also attempting to get Mr. -------- investigated. ASAIC Gaitley was running the very large, very famous undercover money laundering operation entitled, “Operation Casa Blanca.” This operation was also involved in targeting the Arellano-Felix Cartel. According to Gaitley, it was SAIC -------- who completely thwarted and undermined his entire operation when ------- exposed the operation (against customs policy) to the media and to political officials. This act endangered the lives of many undercover agents and operatives working on this project. It is believed by many that the 21 execution style deaths most of which were women and children, that happened in Mexico only weeks after this case went down, was a direct result of how this case was torpedoed by SAIC ---------. ASAIC Gaitley even testified before a Congressional Committee that ------- should have been investigated for this obvious obstruction of justice. Instead, it was ASAIC Gaitley who came under investigation shortly after he became a whistleblower against SAIC ---------, a situation that repeats (documented well in many civil law suits against Customs) itself over and over again in this agency. Only days after this, Gaitley retired in disgust.
NATIONAL SECURITY/POTENTIAL TERRORISIM THREATS
These tanker cars are the perfect instruments for a terrorist attack against the U.S. As previously stated, anyone with cash and phony identification can lease or sublease these cars using a front company as the importer/exporter of record. As the result of our investigation into the -------International Enterprises criminal case, we identified just how easy it would be to do this. The Terrorist would simply lease/sublease a tanker car (even more easily accomplished south of the U.S. border), and pay cash to set up an account with any of the major railroads. The Railroads and Customs brokers aren’t trained – AT ALL – to look for any type of terrorist profiles. This is a customer service industry, pure and simple. The railroad employees taking these orders for accounts make minimum wage, and they are simply “customer service reps.” The Customs brokers aren’t much different. They are required to check almost nothing, have no training in this arena, and have no requirements to fully identify any of their customers. These rail customer accounts may be set up via the Internet, or over the phone. At no point does anyone in the railroad industry or Customs brokers ever require visual documentation to fully identify whom the account holder actually is.
Once a person has set up an account (easily accomplished with fake ID, and front company all declaring a location south of the border) all one has to do is to “front end pay” for the movement of any/all tanker cars, and then they can be moved anywhere in the country with extreme ease. This movement can be directed REMOTELY via the Internet or telephone. These tanker cars can be remotely sent to any railroad spur that is put up for lease by any private industry/citizen willing to lease their spur. Literally thousands of private industry and railroad industry spurs are leased out for temporary storage of any railcars. These spurs are listed on the Internet via the railroads computer systems (e.g. the Eddie Star System) and readily available to anyone with cash/credit for lease, NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Then the terrorist can remotely move them and if need be, abruptly change the routing of these cars via a simple phone call to their customer service rep or via the Internet, from anywhere in the world.
These tanker cars are the metal cylindrical shape cars that carry anything from hazardous materials, to oil, to gasoline (ALL FLAMIBLE). These tanker cars can then be made for any commodity to be put under pressure. Now, what do you have when you put 6 thousand gallons of gasoline, 40 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive, and 1 thousand pounds of ball barrings into one of these tanker cars, all under pressure?????? ANSWER: THE WORLDS BIGEST PIPE BOMB. Now consider the fact that one can simply REMOTELY send these giant instruments of death, simultaneously, to anyone of thousands of rail spurs, virtually undetected. There are many rail spurs located within a mile or so of any of the following locations: White House, Pentagon, any Federal Building in the U.S., Sears Tower, and NEED I SAY MORE! Now add to this the fact that once this is done, the perpetrators will be extremely difficult to trace and no suicide bombers are needed.
These pressurized tanker cars ARE NOT BEING CHECKED BY U.S. CUSTOMS OR ANYONE ELSE!!!!!! When Customs Agents are trying to check them, corrupt Customs managers are thwarting their investigations. I know this first hand, and have documentation and credible witnesses to verify this. Additionally, when was the last time you saw a marked police unit (State Patrol) making a traffic stop on a rail car as it transports across the country?????? These facts are now being prominently displayed in my recently published book entitled U.S. CUSTOMS, BADGE OF DISHONOR (available at all major book stores – Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Borders). Although I did not detail the specific facts of how these tanker cars may be used as terrorist weapons, it’s not going to take a rocket scientist to read my book and figure out that the same modus-opperandi that smugglers are using to get their drugs into the U.S. can also be available for terrorist to use. THIS TRULY IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER!!!!! I really didn’t intend for my book to be used as a “How To” guide for the next crazy extremist who wants an easy way to blow something up. This is exactly why for months now, I have been trying to get someone to listen to me, to no avail. These attempts included explaining this to the FBI who did nothing with this information.
For all of the allegations that many have made repeated attempts to get someone to investigate, the result has been that only the whistleblowers have been placed under investigation, threats, harassment, and intimidation
The proceeding is just a sampling of the corruption/potential terrorist threat that I have been witnessed to and have been instrumental in reporting, only to see the whistleblowers (NOT THE SUSPECTED CORRUPT MANAGERS OR THE POTENTIAL NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES) be investigated and disciplined on erroneous, ludicrous disciplinary actions. SA Sandoval and I also reported documented proof of Special Agents taking heroin evidence home over night, and then lying about it under oath in depositions resulting from civil litigations. These same Customs managers covered this up also. The list of corruption, violation of Customs Policies, etc, etc, goes on and on. Yet, only the honest Customs employees doing their jobs and reporting this behavior have been investigated, harassed, intimidated, threatened and wrongfully disciplined.
I can provide very credible witnesses, and documentation to back up every single thing (and then some) that I have brought forth in this statement. I authored my book (U.S. CUSTOMS BADGE OF DISHONOR) because I was so enraged at what has happened to the honest Customs employees/whistleblowers involved in all of this. My book was published in March 2001, and has already been the topic of many newspaper articles, and radio talk shows. I am confident that this is the only way that anyone will eventually take a hard look at how on earth all of this fell between the cracks or was purposely covered up by high level Customs managers and other agency officials.
I, Darlene Catalan swear that the aforementioned is true, to the best of my knowledge, submitted on this September 18, 2001.
Darlene Catalan (859) 879-8777 / email@example.com
Benjamin E. Catalan Sandy Nunn
July 26, 2001 (760) 727-8936