|English | Español||June 23, 2018 | Issue #33|
Airline Passengers At Risk from DEA Drug Sting Shipments
Smuggling Case at JFK Airport Reveals Pattern of Corruption, and Danger for Passengers
By Bill Conroy
Attorney Steve Duke’s letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office concerning a federal prisoner who suspects he sold heroin to corrupt DEA agents (387 kb PDF)
Affidavit of federal prisoner who claims two of his drug clients were likely corrupt DEA agents (188 kb PDF)
Affidavit of DEA agent confirming DEA ships heroin via commercial airlines (576 kb PDF)
DEA report of investigation (340 kb PDF)
Letter to Duke from the FAA concerning drug shipments on commercial airlines (238 kb PDF)
Note: Acrobat Reader needed to view PDF documents
This shared mission fosters a mutual tension, both within and between agencies, over who will define the battle lines of the conflict. In the shadows of this turf war, the distinction between right and wrong can sometimes bleed into a gray zone where strange alliances are struck.
It is also in this gray zone where the table of corruption is set and the high-stakes players from both sides of the drug war come to place their bets. Some walk away winners; others wind up dead.
That backdrop to the war on drugs helps to explain how agents from both Customs and DEA have become intertwined in what appears to be a pattern of corruption that is centered on JFK International Airport in New York City.
In order to adequately convey the context of the intricate web of corruption charges linking the two federal law enforcement agencies, it is necessary to explore an intriguing legal case that dates back to the early 1990s.
Although the trail of the case leads into the past, the litigation has serious implications for the fate of the war on drugs and the war on terror—both missions that DEA and Customs share.
The airline industry put its thrusters on full bore in an effort to comply with government demands to beef up security in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.
But the same government that feverishly spun out new legislation to strengthen the airline industry’s security web in the war on terrorism may also be the source of a major flaw in that safety network.
According to a Yale Law School professor, that flaw may have already played a role in the destruction of at least one commercial airliner—which was blown up in mid-air, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives.
The law professor, Steven B. Duke, wrote to numerous federal agencies concerning this flaw as part of his efforts to prove the innocence of one of his clients. His efforts produced little more than agency finger-pointing and a cryptic picture of the shadowy world of undercover law enforcement.
The flaw being exposed by Duke relates to a practice called “controlled delivery.” The practice is used by law enforcement to snare high-ranking members of drug trafficking organizations. In such a delivery, a law enforcement agency allows a shipment of drugs to be transported from one location to its destination, under close surveillance, in an effort to catch drug-syndicate kingpins with their hands in the cookie jar.
In the case of Duke’s client, Gaetano DiGirolamo, some 20 kilos (44 pounds) of heroin were transported on commercial airlines from Pakistan to New York City in an alleged controlled delivery undertaken to advance a major undercover drug operation. Agents with the DEA transported the heroin in December 1990 from Pakistan to Paris, via Air France; and then from Paris to New York City, via the now-defunct airline TWA.
The drugs were then purportedly used to set up a series of stings, one netting DiGirolamo, who was ultimately convicted in 1994 of drug conspiracy charges in federal court in New York and sentenced to life in prison. Duke later took on DiGirolamo’s case, seeking to prove he was wrongfully convicted.
Gaetano DiGirolamo is no saint.
According to DEA records, DiGirolamo is a “known associate of the Cotroni organized crime family based in Canada, and has an extensive narcotics background.”
And DiGirolamo has paid a price for his career choice. He spent much of the 1980s (1984-1990) in federal prison in Danbury, Conn.
So it should not be a big surprise to most people that he again found himself on the wrong end of the law in the early 1990s, shortly after his release from prison.
That run-in with the system—the DEA specifically—led to his indictment in 1991 and conviction in 1994 on drug conspiracy charges in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The conspiracy charges against DiGirolamo stemmed from a meeting he arranged between a DEA informant and another individual who eventually purchased heroin from the informant.
However, DiGirolamo claims he had nothing to do with the drug deal. Despite what people might assume about him, he contends that he is not guilty of the charges brought against him in 1991; in fact, he claims that DEA agents framed him, seeking to use his case as a cover for their own illegal drug-smuggling activities.
DiGirolamo appealed his conviction, only to lose again in 1995. At that point, Steven B. Duke, a professor of law at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn., stepped in, and took on DiGirolamo’s case pro bono. In 1997, Duke filed a post-conviction petition with the federal court seeking to vacate DiGirolamo’s conviction.
Among the claims raised in the post-conviction petition were that DiGirolamo was convicted “based upon perjury of three DEA agents” and that his court-appointed lawyer provided inadequate legal representation.
“(The DEA agents) testified that they were involved in importing drugs for use in ‘stings’ against me and others when in truth and in fact they were doing so for their own personal, criminal enrichment,” states DiGirolamo in his post-conviction petition.
According to court pleadings, the DEA agents transported the heroin from Pakistan to New York City allegedly for the purpose of setting up undercover stings.
The petition goes on to raise major doubts about the veracity of the DEA agents’ purported sting against DiGirolamo—such as the fact that the alleged heroin brought in from Pakistan was never tested to assure it was the same heroin used in the sting, nor was the heroin ever produced at trial.
In addition, despite claims by the DEA agents involved in transporting the heroin that their operation had been sanctioned by DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., as well as the French and Pakistani governments, Duke says those approvals were never produced.
“Where are they?” Duke asks in a court filing. “Where are the applications for such approvals? Where is the evidence that any of these approvals were sought, much less obtained?”
The DEA agents, of course, contend Duke’s allegations are baseless.
DiGirolamo and others were being targeted, according to the testimony of DEA agents, because they were believed to be distributors for a major heroin trafficking syndicate headed by a mysterious Pakistani figure named Jan. The 20 kilos of heroin imported from Pakistan by the DEA agents allegedly were acquired through undercover purchases from the Jan organization, legal filings in the DiGirolamo case state.
From the fall of 1991 to the summer of 1992, there were a total of nine other prosecutions that were related to the Jan syndicate sting. In each of those cases, the DEA agents tell the same story, according to court filings made by DiGirolamo’s defense team.
Despite this fact, the court filings claim, Jan and the drug syndicate being targeted by the DEA operation never figured out that repeated stings and arrests were occurring—even though the heroin involved in the nine prosecutions adds up to 50 kilos, 30 kilos more than was provided by the Jan organization.
“How could any organization think it had any of the 20 kilograms of heroin to sell after the first few arrests?” Duke states in a legal brief in the DiGirolamo case. “Moreover, Jan was an informant for the DEA.”
Duke was even able to track down a witness who claims to have purchased heroin from individuals fitting the description of the DEA agents in the DiGirolamo case. The witness, who is serving a life sentence on drug conspiracy charges in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, claims the drugs he and his partner acquired in those deals in Queens, N.Y. (some 40 ounces a week at $6,000 an ounce) were in turn sold on the streets of Philadelphia.
Duke made numerous requests of prosecutors in both Philadelphia and New York for various records that would help substantiate or disprove the claims being made by the witness, but “all those requests were ignored,” he claims.
In a letter to the judge in DiGirolamo’s case, Duke alleges that the DEA agents were, in reality, engaged in their own smuggling operation “for the purpose of selling the drugs and using ‘stings’ as a cover for their operation.”
The DEA agents characterized the claims raised by Duke as “untrue and absurd,” according to court records.
The judge in the case also dismissed Duke’s arguments, contending instead that DiGirolamo was convicted on overwhelming evidence that he conspired to possess heroin.
In addition, according to court records, the judge found there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that the DEA agents were illegally importing heroin for their own drug trafficking operation. And even if those allegations were true, the judge reasoned, it would simply make DiGirolamo a co-conspirator with the DEA agents.
“In December 1999, (the judge) dismissed the entire case in one of the most bizarre opinions I have ever seen,” Duke says. “... Essentially, (the judge) said it didn’t matter if the DEA agents were corrupt smugglers.”
Duke has continued to pursue the DiGirolamo case, and in 2002 uncovered a possible connection between his case and allegations of corruption centered on U.S. Customs operations at JFK International Airport. Those Customs-related allegations were brought forth by Diane Kleiman, a former federal agent turned whistleblower. Kleiman claims that she was targeted for retaliation and finally fired after attempting to expose the allegedly corrupt practices at Customs’ JFK office.
DiGirolamo recounts his version of what happened to him in a letter dated September 3, 2003, which he wrote from federal prison. (With the exception of DiGirolamo’s attorney, Professor Steven B. Duke, the names of individuals mentioned in the letter have been withheld to protect their real identities.)
Inmate Name: Gaetano DiGirolamo
Register Number: 07853-014 Unit F105
United States Penitentiary
P.O. Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837
Dear Mr. Conroy,
My name is Gaetano DiGirolamo. A couple of years ago you did a story about me. It concerned DEA Agents using commercial airlines to import drugs into the U.S. I know you remember the story.
The reason I am writing is because I am desperate for help. I need some sort of publicity to explain my plight. I have been contemplating for some time as to whether I should write to you. From the heading of your article you seem tothink that I was some sort of king pin.
Let me give you some background about myself. I am not no kingpin in the drug business. The government has created this myth. Let me tell you that I was a gambler and a bookmaker. My adventure in the drug business took place in 1982. I was involved with trafficing cocaine. My indictment for that crime was that from the year 1982 thru 1984 I distributed 164 grams of cocaine. That is the case I pled to and that is what I went away for. I deserved to go away. They were not satisfied with taking me and my sons, They also took my wife who had nothing to do with anything. She too was put away. I do not have to tell you why they took my wife I am sure that you can figure that out yourself. They play dirty. They wanted me to be informant on certain people. I won’t go into the whole story I just wanted you to know what I did.
I was sentenced to 16 years. The judge gave me two consecutive sentences of 8 years. I pled to this because I wanted my wife to remain home with our two remaining sons. Instead they sent her away for 4 years and she maxed that term out.
I was released from Danbury on Oct. 26, 1990. I got a job with the XX fish company in December of 1990. This was owned by a Mr. AA and Mr. BB.
While I was serving time at Danbury, I met a Pakistani named CC. I befriended him. In 1986, February to be exact, Mr. CC was taken to INS to be deported back to Pakistan. I was instrumental in securing a bond for him to remain here to fight the extradiction. I had a lawyer friend of mine put up the bond for which I stood behind.
As it turned out CC skipped out leaving me owing this money. Over the next 4 years I may have heard from via mail about 4 to 6 times. Each time he would say that he would pay attorney DD the money he owed. I kept DD informed each and everytime I heard from him.
In January of 1991 it was the last week of the month I received an MCI cable from this CC. I went to Mr. DD’s office and we tried to call the number that Mr. CC wrote in the cable. We were unable to make a connection. I next hear from Mr. CC by letter. This was the end of February of 1991. Mr. CC informed me that he had a friend who was here in the U.S. that would contact me concerning the money Mr. CC owed Mr. DD. I was later contacted by a person known as EE.
I did meet this EE, which was the mistake of my life. He informed me that Mr. CC had sent me 12 kilos of heroin and that I was to pay him $150,000 for courier fees. I swore at this guy and cursed him. I told him that I was not there for the purpose of any drug deal. I want the money that Mr. CC owes Mr. DD.
As you can figure out this was a setup. The person I met wore a wire. When we asked for the wire it turned out to be inaudible. The DEA said that the recorder was working prior to my entry into the motel and then went off and all you could hear is static. This tape would have shown that I had nothing to do with drugs.
What happens is next is that I finally speak to Mr. CC on Mar. 25, 1991. I reigned terror on him for what he did. He told me that it was all a mistake and that EE was suppose to see a friend about some other deal. He mentioned the name and I knew he was. We were all friends at the Danbury facility. He wanted me to introduce EE to him. I did put the two people together but it was for some deal that involved gems. I wasn’t involved in any deal with either of the people. I only made the introduction for Mr. CC with the understanding that he would pay Mr. DD. I was concerned about our home which was in foreclosure.
As you can guess they supposedly made a deal for the durgs. My friend was arrested and two days later they arrested me for introducing them. I received a Life sentence plus 10 years. He received 22 years. They enhanced me for the convictions I had in 1984.
Mr. Conroy I have been inside prison since 1984. This November I will have spent 19 years away from my family. I will be 71 years old on September 22. On September 21 I will be married 46 years. My wife will be 68 years old on September 19. My life is over. I would like to die around my family. I would like to spend a few years with them.
This case was a coverup from the outset for the DEA to smuggle drugs and sell drugs in the inner cities across this country. I have proof of the smuggling operation. I have people who dealt with the agents. As you know they will not give us the oportunity to show the buyer the photo array of the agents.
I do not know what you can do or if you want to help me. I am a desperate man. Each day that goes by I wish that something happens. It hasn’t. I have spoken to my lawyer about going to the Judge and asking that I be given a lethal injection. I do not want my family to suffer any longer. I figure that with me gone they can go on with their lives. But Prof. Duke will not hear of it and doubts the Judge would ever do that.
I sit hear in prison for the crimes of others. What I have done in the past I have paid for. I was never a Kingpin drug dealer. I know a lot of people but does that mean that I am a drug dealer. I admit to what I have done. I pled guilty to it. There was nobody involved with me. I am ashamed for what I have done to my family.
I will close for now. If you will answer me as soon as possible I would greatly appreciate. Time is running out for me. God Bless You.
The twists and turns of DiGirolamo’s legal case expose the rough underbelly of the U.S. justice system. But his case also raises another frightening specter in the realm of airline security.
Controlled delivery may well be an effective law-enforcement tool in combating drug cartels, when all goes as planned. However, when the system breaks down, or is corrupted, the consequences can be serious, even deadly, according to Duke.
A letter written in December 1999 by Duke to Jane Garvey, then administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), elucidates those concerns:
“The DEA agents who brought the heroin to this country were allegedly linking up Pakistani drug producers and American dealers, through the assistance of informers working both in Pakistan and the United States. The drug dealers’ discovery that the distribution network had been infiltrated by informers was therefore an omnipresent possibility, which they might choose to defend against by blowing up the airplane. There is ample precedent for drug organizations planting bombs in airplanes occupied by passengers who are informants. In 1989, a commercial airliner headed for the United States was blown up in flight because the Medellin Cartel believed an informant was aboard. All 107 passengers and crew were killed….”
In a June 8, 2000 letter to the FAA’s chief counsel, Duke also contends that negligence in a U.S. government-sponsored drug-sting operation may have played a key role in the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. The airliner exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, snuffing out the lives of 259 people on board and another 11 people on the ground.
A Libyan intelligence officer was subsequently convicted of the bombing and Libya has since agreed to pay the families of the victims a total of some $2.7 billion. However, Duke provided the FAA’s chief counsel with a 1991 news story from the London Times and a copy of an affidavit from a U.S. intelligence officer that points to a potential security flaw that may have facilitated the terrorist plot to place explosives on Flight 103.
The intelligence officer, who was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and stationed in the Middle East in 1988, contends that Flight 103 was being used as a “controlled” flight as part of a DEA drug-sting operation. The London Times story states that the DIA agent believed the DEA operation was compromised, allowing terrorists to plant a bomb on Flight 103 through an airport bag switch.
The DEA claims it was not running a drug sting on the ill-fated flight. A spokesman for Pan Am, however, said the DEA’s claim is “simply false,” according to the London Times story.
“In addition to the drug-related bombing of the Colombian jetliner in 1989 … it now appears that DEA’s smuggling of drugs on another passenger airplane may have contributed to the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,” states Duke in his letter to the FAA’s chief counsel. “... Perhaps the Congress can be persuaded to rectify that deficiency. One may hope that a tragedy is not required to produce a recognition of the problem in that venue.”
Although the letter Duke wrote to FAA Administrator Garvey argues hypothetically from the assumption that the DEA agents in DiGirolamo’s case were telling the truth about the Pakistan-to-New York controlled delivery of heroin, Duke’s real position in his client’s case is quite the opposite.
In addition to failing to produce documents to show that the operation had been approved by DEA and the foreign governments affected, Duke points out that the agents transporting the heroin did not find buyers for the drugs until some five months after bringing the contraband back to New York. He also stresses that the agents involved in the transport never pretended to be anything other than federal agents—so they weren’t acting undercover.
Several former federal law enforcement officials who were contacted about the DiGirolamo case also agree that what occurred—as asserted by Duke in the litigation—does not appear to qualify as a controlled delivery.
“A controlled delivery requires the coordination of numerous affected offices, such as U.S. Customs, the DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuting the case,” explains one former undercover agent. “And there has to be surveillance on it from start to finish, someone eyeballing it all the way—which makes the operations very expensive because they involve a lot of man hours. This operation (the one in the DiGirolamo case) doesn’t sound normal; it’s not the way it works.”
Duke has made efforts to discover if the Pakistan-to-New York heroin shipment was sanctioned by a government agency. Between 1997 and 2000, he wrote a series of letters to the FAA, the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Customs Service seeking information on their policies concerning controlled deliveries—and more specifically about their knowledge of the heroin transported by DEA agents from Pakistan to New York in December 1990 via commercial airlines.
The Department of Transportation referred his letter to the FAA, which replied by informing Duke that the FAA “does not have authority … to prohibit DEA from transporting narcotics on commercial airlines. ...”
Duke’s letter to Customs, dated March 3, 2000, was addressed to Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Duke’s letter to Customs:
Dear Mr. Kelly,
In a criminal prosecution in the Eastern District of New York in 1993, a DEA agent named Derek Maltz testified that he personally brought 20 kilos of heroin to New York from Pakistan on a commercial passenger airline and that he did so with the approval of not only DEA headquarters in Washington but the United States Customs Service. I enclose a copy of his testimony on the subject. United States v. Salerno and DiGirolamo, 91, CR. 0395, tr. 514-15. In subsequent proceedings in that case, another DEA agent stated that such importations of contraband for use in sting operations is commonplace.
I find that testimony both incredible and incomprehensible. There can be no legitimate law enforcement need to bring large quantities of heroin into this country when we are already awash in it, and more is surely not needed for sting operations. There is a substantial risk that such shipments of multi-million dollar packages of drugs will encourage corruption of the agents involved in bringing it here. Moreover, carrying such contraband as a passenger on a commercial airliner risks the safety of passengers, crew and ground personnel, since it is a likely target for robbery and also since the consignors, if they suspect betrayal or law enforcement involvement, may blow up the airplane, as was done to another jetliner headed for New York in 1989. [See “107 Dead in Bogata Jetliner Crash, Los Angeles Times, 11/27/89; United States v. Escobar et al., 842 F. Supp. 1519 (E.D.N.Y., 1994)—prosecution for blowing up plane headed to New York.]
As I read the law, secretly importing large quantities of illicit drugs on commercial passenger airliner is a serious felony, even if conducted by law enforcement officers. ... I can find no statute or regulation authorizing it.
Please tell me whether Mr. Maltz’s claim about Customs authorization is true or false and, in any event, whether you think there is any legal justification for the practices he describes.
The U.S. Customs Service sent Duke a reply on May 2, 2000. The response was prepared by Bonnie Tischler, assistant commissioner for Customs’ Office of Investigations.
Tischler’s letter to Duke:
Dear Mr. Duke,
Thank you for your March 3, 2000, letter regarding the importation of narcotics into the United States by law enforcement officers.
In your letter you cite the judicial testimony of a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who received approval from DEA and the U.S. Customs Service to conduct an international controlled delivery. An international controlled delivery is one of many investigative techniques utilized by law enforcement officials to investigate and infiltrate narcotics smuggling organizations. More specifically, they are a highly effective tool used to further identify and ultimately arrest the high-level members of those organizations. The U.S. Customs Service has specific guidelines that grant such importations provided all precautions have been taken to ensure the security of the controlled substances, the law enforcement officers involved and members of the public.
The specific incident you cite involved the international controlled delivery of 20 kilograms of heroin at the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport on Dec. 4, 1990. Our records indicate that while our agency provided assistance in facilitating that delivery through JFK, the entire operation was initiated and coordinated solely by the DEA. Therefore, I would refer any further questions you my have regarding this matter to DEA Headquarters, 600 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, Virginia 22202.
I appreciate your interest in the Customs Service. If we may be of any further assistance, please contact me ….
The response from Customs does not indicate who within the federal law-enforcement agency facilitated the delivery. However, at that time, Customs was dealing with some issues itself in relation to its JFK operations, according to former JFK Customs Agent Diane Kleiman —who claims she was fired in 1999 after blowing the whistle on alleged corrupt activity on the part of Customs officials at the New York City airport.
Kleiman’s case was accepted for investigation in the spring of 2002 by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency that is empowered to investigate and prosecute cases of alleged governmental misconduct and mismanagement. In a letter Kleiman sent to the OSC in July 2001, she alleges that in the early 1990s, three federal agents assigned to a drug unit at JFK died under unusual circumstances. Two died of heroin overdoses and one committed suicide—allegedly after stealing drugs from an evidence room.
Duke says he is investigating whether there is any connection between the JFK drug-unit agents and the DEA agents involved in the DiGirolamo case, but adds “we don’t have the connection yet.”
“We do know that Customs at JFK ‘facilitated’ the (alleged) smuggling by our DEA agents and were aware of it,” he adds. “Whether they were corruptly involved remains to be determined.”
In the fall of 2002, Kleiman, who is Jewish, also filed a lawsuit against Customs in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Among the charges in Kleiman’s lawsuit are that Customs management at JFK International Airport discriminated against her because of her gender and religious background and that she was retaliated against by the same managers for shining a light on the alleged dysfunction and corruption within Customs’ JFK operations. Customs denies Kleiman’s allegations in its answer to her legal complaint and asks the court to dismiss the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn declined to comment on the DiGirolamo case or on its policies concerning controlled deliveries.
The same questions were posed to DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Will Glaspy, a DEA agent and spokesman for the agency, says he cannot comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation, such as the DiGirolamo case. However, he provided the following general comments concerning international controlled deliveries involving commercial airlines:
“Yes, there are procedures that allow for this type of operation. ... We have policies with checks and balances in place to make sure everything operates smoothly (with respect to potential dangers to passengers).”
Glaspy adds that the DEA cannot operate unilaterally in a foreign country, so it would need to obtain approvals from any foreign countries affected by an international controlled delivery—such as France and Pakistan in the case of the delivery made in the DiGirolamo case.
In addition, Glaspy stresses that “there are numerous people who need to sign off on the details of the operational plan (for a controlled delivery) from the beginning to the end. (DEA) Headquarters plays a big part in that.” He adds that there are also procedures in place to assure that agents transporting the contraband do not steal drugs from the shipment.
In terms of whether the airlines would be made aware of such an operation:
“It is possible that the commercial airlines involved (in a controlled delivery) would be made aware, but it is also possible that they would not be aware,” Glaspy explains. “It’s done as the need dictates with respect to the security of the operation and the safety of the agents.”
That might explain why Air France stated in a March 9, 1998, letter to Duke that it had no record of having been notified by the DEA of the 1990 shipment of 20 kilos of heroin from Pakistan to Paris via Air France.
“We are not permitting such a transportation on our lines,” the letter states. “Should we learn that a quantity of drugs, heroin or other, large or small, is loaded on board one of our aircrafts, we would immediately report to the local police as well as our national authorities.”
TWA, which was the commercial carrier that was used by the DEA agents to move the heroin from Paris to New York City, sent a letter to Duke in January 1998 declining to comment on the incident.
TWA’s assets have since been acquired by Fort Worth-based American Airlines. When asked about its policy concerning controlled deliveries, American Airlines spokesman John Hotard provided the following reply:
“American Airlines often cooperates with federal law enforcement agencies in the fight against drug smuggling. We have a vast network of our own security agents throughout our route system to ensure that American Airlines flights are safe and secure. That said, we are not aware of any illegal drugs ever being placed on any of our aircraft by federal law enforcement officers.”
Although American Airlines may not be aware of such activity, according to a February 1999 affidavit submitted in the DiGirolamo case by DEA Agent Charles Graham, international controlled deliveries of illegal drugs are standard fare for the DEA. Graham was assigned to the DEA’s Karachi, Pakistan, resident office (KRO) from 1989 to 1993.
“It is standard operating procedure for the DEA to transfer drugs seized by the DEA in Pakistan to the DEA in the United States for the purpose of doing controlled deliveries,” Graham states in the affidavit. “In my estimation, during the course of my tenure at the KRO, DEA performed at least 30 such controlled deliveries. Drugs have been transferred under those circumstances to a number of DEA offices, including those in Long Island, Miami, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.”
These revelations take on an even more ominous tone post-September 11 and with the rise of global terrorism. Consider that, according to an analysis of public records, of the 35-plus groups that are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department, at least 10 (including al-Qaeda) have known ties to drug trafficking or drug cartels.
In that light, Duke’s legal efforts reveal some startling information concerning the U.S. government’s policy on controlled deliveries, including the fact that the airlines and passengers are often kept in the dark with respect to these undercover drug shipments.
Duke spells out his concerns with the practice in his December 1999 letter to FAA Administrator Garvey:
“When I first learned of an agent’s testimony that he brought multi-kilo quantities of heroin into this country on commercial flights, I concluded that the agents were probably using the cover of their jobs to smuggle drugs for their own private, corrupt purposes,” Duke states in the letter. “I still suspect that was the case. The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York contends, however, that such activities are a common practice of the DEA.”
Duke goes on in the letter to again question why the government is importing more drugs into the country—given the fact that there are already plenty of drugs in the United States that could be used for sting operations.
“Since there can be no compelling law enforcement purpose for bringing such drugs into the country,” Duke continues, “... something is seriously awry in the DEA that, among other things, threatens the lives of innocent airline passengers.”
Next in Chapter 14:
A whistleblower alleges she uncovered widespread corruption in Customs’ operations at JFK International Airport in New York City. The whistleblower claims further that she warned Customs and Department of Justice officials about the risk the corruption posed to national security prior to the 9/11 terror attacks, yet nothing was done. The whistleblower, a federal agent, was subsequently fired after her supervisor allegedly altered her job-evaluation records.
Read the rest of Bill Conroy’s Borderline Security:
Bill Conroy has worked as a reporter or editor for the past eighteen years at newspapers in Wisconsin, Arizona, Minnesota and Texas. His investigative reporting over the past five years has focused on corruption and discrimination within federal law enforcement agencies.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism