Customs Seeks Own Intelligence Unit!

Customs Seeks Own Intelligence Unit!
Posted by FoM on March 04, 1999 at 22:36:10 PT

WASHINGTON -- The Customs Service needs its own intelligence-gathering unit to help foil drug smugglers, Customs Service Director Ray Kelly said Thursday, because tip-sharing arrangements with other agencies don't give him the tactical information he needs. 
``We need what's coming across between 12 and 8 o'clock, and what's the color of truck that's bringing it in, and what's the port of entry,'' the former New York City police commissioner said in an interview with The Associated Press. The interview with Kelly also touched on battles against child pornography and his agency's troubled image. ``We have the need for real-time intelligence. We need stuff that's coming in quickly, and we're not getting it,'' Kelly said. The Customs Service piggybacks on the Drug Enforcement Administration for tips about drug shipments headed for U.S. borders. The tough-talking Kelly said Customs enjoys ``a good relationship'' with the DEA. But he said he would prefer to have his employees, who are already stationed in more than two dozen countries, gather their own information. The two agencies have separate, overlapping duties at the nation's ports and border crossings. Customs inspectors are the front line of drug interdiction, searching baggage and people. The DEA investigates and helps prosecute drug activity. The two agencies also serve different masters; Customs is part of the Treasury Department and DEA is part of the Justice Department. Customs also gets some ``strategic'' information on drug smuggling from the CIA, but Kelly said that information has little relevance to specific seizure operations. The White House adviser on drug policy, Barry McCaffrey, recently commissioned a study of overseas drug intelligence that recommended a separate unit for Customs, a government source said. The report, which has not been made public, was the starting point for recent discussions between senior officials at the Treasury and Justice departments, the source said. Separate meetings are scheduled next week between Customs and DEA. On other topics: --Kelly said his agency is doubling the size of a special unit tracking child pornography on the Internet. Customs has long experience in anti-pornography efforts, because many illegal photos and videos are produced overseas. Customs agents and inspectors used to look for such contraband at the borders or in airports, ``but now it's coming in over the Internet,'' Kelly said. --Kelly said he is tackling cronyism within the Customs ranks and making changes quickly to reform the agency he took over last year. ``The cronyism,'' Kelly said, comes about partly ``because of local hiring, local promotion, local discipline and local rulings.'' He is reshuffling managers, improving accountability and setting up clearer chains of command, Kelly said. And he is cracking down on those who fall down on the job, he said. He cited the example of Customs employees in El Paso who broke the rules recently by leaving a commercial incineration plant before their cargo of seized marijuana was destroyed. ``We're looking to fire them,'' Kelly said. Kelly said he is ``kind of in negotiations and discussions'' with higher-ups at Treasury and Justice about a Customs intelligence unit. ``Will we do that? I don't know,'' Kelly said. DEA spokesman Terry Parham said he is not familiar with the idea, but said the current system works well. ``I think we are jointly working together, closely together,'' Parham said. ``We do work toward the same end and to achieve the same goal: Seize drugs and put those responsible in jail.'' There is no information on the structure, cost or other practical considerations of a separate Customs unit. Kelly said a dedicated Customs intelligence unit would gather information on all contraband coming to the United States, but would focus on drugs.
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