Acting CBP Commissioner retires- leaves stained legacy
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Ahern to Retire- But Will the Cronyism, Sex-rings and Security Gaffs End
After three decades of service to the federal government, Jayson Ahern will be leaving the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency with the blessing of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Jay has led CBP and we have benefited from his wisdom…Jay has demonstrated remarkable leadership and service to our nation,” the DHS Secretary explained.
There are many who disagree with that statement. Once the story unfolds “service” will have a different meaning. Speculation and allegations surround the retirement of Ahern. Even though his career was marred with indiscretions he continued to move up the chain of command. Many who have worked with him throughout the years believe the retirement comes as the ‘writing is on the wall’ and a quiet departure will lead to greater opportunities without scandal.
In fact, scandal has long been documented in public detail and the fallout has followed Ahern and others in Miami (and elsewhere) for years. That, in and of itself is not anything new, but the result of this internal corruption and sexual antics have left a nation open to security breakdowns.
Ahern says of his retirement, “the agency is filled with strongly committed and dedicated professionals whose responsibility is to secure the homeland…Over the remaining weeks; I will undoubtedly recall numerous highlights, accomplishments and challenges that we have shared.”
Let’s look back at Ahern’s career in the CBP and see what kind of legacy he will be leaving to his successor, Alan Bersin, an Obama appointee.
A number of top CBP officials have long been ensnared in sexual misconduct allegations and when it comes time for punishment it has been the whistleblowers who find themselves in trouble. Unfortunately this is not the exception, but a tried and true rule, a pattern that continues to be practiced each day in the Department of Homeland Security.
Sex, Lies, and Videotapes
The tale of sexual misconduct has been well documented by the Miami Herald (going back a decade), and in very graphic details in online blogs. Customs officers describe a hostile work environment initially within an elite group of Miami inspectors who successfully fought against the cocaine trade only to end up with dubious sexual scandals attached to their resumes. Indiscretions like drunken skinny dippy, strip ‘pornopoly,’ on-the-job drinking, obscene phone calls and various sexual-aids placed in co-workers mailboxes follow Ahern like a proud badge of honor.
Numerous CBP supervisors were implicated in these activities and a pattern of promotion could be counted on each time these extra-curricular activities took place. This is hardly a gratifying solution for those who are on the receiving end of these non-wanted sexual innuendos.
Content in the series of articles in the Miami Herald went unchallenged and included many names like Ahern and Tom Winkowski. A CBP email highlighted some of these transgressions. Internal e-mails and internet postings point out the numerous sexual indiscretions in the Miami and Los Angeles/Long Beach ports, each port director, Ahern and Winkowski merely swapped locations while keeping the same job.
It must be noted that their official biographies at the CBP website show a similar career track, and that both are married. Sources and peers report that the transfer was the “discipline” though in reality both officials and others received promotions, too, and it’s alleged managers are told to cool the activities for a while until things blow over.
“There were many stories of ‘sexual misconduct while on duty’ among managers and the story was that this is how inspectors were getting promoted in record time,” an internal email read. Discussions about a sex-ring were perpetuated throughout Customs in both ports.
The context of an internal employee email (subject: Chapter 7, Sex, lies, and videotapes) contained sexual encounter after encounter. Employees getting caught both on and off duty with their pants down or their skirts up were commonplace within Legacy Customs and continue to this day much to the chagrin of many employees.
Many cases of sexual harassment were brought against both males and females, including one filed in Florida, where Ahern was named as part of a sex ring in Miami – yet no dismissals of employment occurred, while participants continued to be promoted at the fastest rates. A few short suspensions (for a very insignificant amount), and temporary details to headquarters were the punishment for what seems like a business as usual behavior within the government agency.
Employees who did not want to partake in the sexcapades quickly tried to transfer to other ports. And once word got out they refused to partake in sex games they were ostracized within CBP. One employee referred to the feeling in an email, “It is a very eerie feeling to have to work among sexual predators that seem to want to always be in your space for no reason.”
Employees point to other acquiescent behavior occurring in the office with no attempt to disguise the vulgar language.
“Arthur Gainer was having sex with any female at work that he could. We have heard Arthur Gainer make sexual innuendos to other females while at work and we were standing right there,” the email continued. “This thing is that they all cover up for each other and lie for each other at every level whenever they are caught in the act.” Talk of sexual favors and orgies was a company staple and a ‘regular thing’ especially when there was a ‘going away party.’
The email continues to explain that the sexual “conduct has become a part of the organizational culture of the Customs Service. Because this type of culture is perpetuated and fostered from the highest levels of the agency the new employees who unknowingly are targeted by these sexual predators do not have a chance of justice when they are reporting these acts of misconduct in the mistaken belief that the agency administrators share the same values of integrity that they do.”
Another key player Ray Kelly, New York Police Commissioner, and former Commissioner of Customs knew all about the sexual shenanigans within CBP and like other superiors he continued to ignore the scandal. Kelly also held other positions within the industry of Dept of Treasury Undersecretary of Enforcement (including Customs, Secret Service, BATF, and others) 96-98 and Commissioner of U.S. Customs Service 1998-2000, begging the question; why did he do nothing about this unsavory behavior?
Subsequent top officials including former CBP Commissioners Ralph Basham and Robert Bonner were informed by CBP employees as well and also did nothing to put a stop to it. Meanwhile Ahern, Winkowski and countless others continued to be promoted to the highest positions in the agency.
The rank and file officers who didn’t engage in obscene behavior were left to do the job of many since much of this behavior took place while on duty, in government buildings and vehicles. Even though these employees were being caught on government cameras, walked in on by fellow officers at their offices with large glass doors or windows, nothing brought an end to the sexcapades.
However, employees who dared to fight the establishment on sexual innuendo were often taught a painful message. Constant berating, promotion denials (though qualified) and crappy, often humiliating details would await those who dared to say “no.”
Julia Davis Harassed by the Government She Wanted to Defend After 9-11
One woman bucked the norm and was subject to the wrath of the DHS- Julia Davis.
Officer Davis’ case landed in the courtroom and eventually she was able to expose the DHS and CBP outrageous behavior at the San Ysidro Port in San Diego, CA.
Davis joined CBP after the 9-11 attack on America in an effort to serve her country proudly (Davis is an immigrant). However, her enthusiasm and professionalism for her new law enforcement career turned to fear and anger when one of her Senior Supervisors at work, Kevin Crusilla, began to make inappropriate sexual advances. While harassing Davis, Crusilla continually reminded her that she was a probationary employee and during her first year of employment could be easily terminated at any time at management’s discretion.
At first Davis tried to quietly resolve the issue by asking other Supervisors and Port Directors to intervene without filing a formal complaint. She had no idea that her boss Crusilla was part of the “good ole boy” club and a close personal friend with the upper management. She naively counted on management to make the harassment stop, including Port Director William “Bruce” Ward, Assistant Port Director Orlando Chambers and Port Director Oscar Preciado.
Although Port Managers knew Crusilla had made unwanted sexual advances towards other women, Port Directors and the Crusilla friendship stopped any action against him. Officers at the Port knew that the system would retaliate against anyone reporting misconduct by the management. Davis, however, had no idea that the management was in a habit of attacking victims who dared to complain, instead of disciplining perpetrators. She would later discover that a victim of stalking, battery and harassment was subject to even greater danger by seeking protection from the agency.
DHS continued its harassment of the Davis household eventually using a Black Hawk helicopter and a couple of home invasions to break Davis and get her to stop with the sexual harassment charges. However, it would be DHS that would underestimate Davis and her willingness to fight for her God-given rights and the country she now called home.
In desperation Davis filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on May 10, 2003. Since the Department of Homeland Security was not taking any action to stop the harassment and to protect Davis from Crusilla’s harassment and stalking, she petitioned for and was granted first a temporary and then a permanent restraining order against Crusilla with the California Superior Court in Chula Vista, CA.
This would be her first legal victory against DHS, a company she admired and worked hard to be a part of. A final court decision was issued in September 2005, in the complaint of discrimination by former Customs and Border Protection Officer Davis against the Department of Homeland Security awarding her the amount of $225,000. The Judge ruled Davis established agency culpability of an egregious sort and has been awarded damages as well as attorney fees due to discrimination.
The Judge also ruled that no one could work under the conditions Davis was subjected to and said; “I find that based on the record in the case, complainant has established not only that the agency engaged in illegal conduct, but also that the conduct was intolerable to a reasonable person because it was especially humiliating and included unnecessary harassment. Secondly, I find that the complainant’s resignation was caused by, or in response to, the illegal treatment.”
In a statement Davis said, “This decision is an important step in safeguarding civil rights of federal employees and holding agencies accountable for failing to prevent and to timely curtail unconstitutional actions in the workplace.”
Unconstitutional indeed and something that happens throughout the United States at many ports of entry as confirmed by independent sources that shared their stories throughout all levels of government agencies.
Miami Customs District – Animal House with Badges and Guns
Take the Miami Customs District where a current employee and military veteran states she has never seen such corruption in her life. “When I started with the agency I was told by my superiors that I was nothing more than piece of meat and if I played my cards right I’d move up real fast.”
This didn’t sit well with the former military brat. “I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, everyone takes the same oath unfortunately not everyone takes their oath seriously.”
At the Customs agency ‘protect and serve’ take on a new meaning especially in light of the new world order that includes terrorism. When foreign nationals are entering the country it is important to make sure they harbor no ill will towards Americans and it is the job of the agents to figure this out.
One problem the Miami agency faces with the diversity of employees is hometown allegiance- meaning they are Americans second and home country first. This stereotypical nuance seems simple enough except when you are working America’s ports of entry, and where it is easy to let some things slide-to say compadres from Venezuela or elsewhere.
This Miami source says she’s seen this up close and personal. “I’ve witnessed many agents stamp passports as if these entrants had I-94s, which means they have green card status and allows them fewer restrictions upon entering the country.”
As a result some agents report this to supervisors, but they are told by the supervisor ‘to let it go’ and ‘don’t worry about it.’ “I’ve personally talked to people who have green cards who talk very badly to me when I start asking questions. For example, if they are male I asked if they are signed up for the Selective Service (a U.S. law) and the answers are horrible.”
“I hear, ‘I hate the U.S. I will never fight for you infidels, you deserve to die!’ At that point I take the person to secondary only to be told we have to kick them free.” Now to the average person you may take offence to a green card holder speaking of America in that manner. To an agent it’s their job to ensure no hostile people are entering into the country. “I take an oath to protect and serve, however my supervisors are not letting me do my job and I take that personally.”
Another excuse given to inspectors when they get unruly patrons in a Customs line is; “It’s racial profiling.” Looking back to Ft. Hood, Texas where the military let the political-correctness rule shine through and allowed a Muslim fanatic move up the highest military ranks even though he showed disturbing signs of hatred towards Americans and finally murdering 14 people (13 soldiers one of which was pregnant) in the name of Allah; something is broken.
When people are prone to this kind of behavior at ports of entry they are often struck away because of racial profiling and CBP agents have been told accidents can happen, if you don’t tow the agency line. “I want American people to wake up. We are being attacked from the inside out. National security has been gutted; it’s like taking an apple and putting a worm inside and allowing it to feast. The apple still looks tempting from the outside, but inside there’s nothing left.”
Even with all the problems facing the Miami Customs Office, insiders say there are ways to alleviate the corruption that has plagued the agency for decades. The dirty little secret in Miami is its whorehouse reputation. “I hope with Ahern’s retirement the Department of Homeland Security can clean this agency up. I’ve had personal experiences with fellow male coworkers who groped my private parts and tried to influence me to have sex, but I have more integrity and respect for myself. I’ve filed EEOC reports, complained and nothing has been done to address the situation,” says another agent who wished to remain anonymous for fear of workplace retaliation.
“The DHS needs to clean house and fire these people from start to finish because they are making a mockery of the U.S. legal system. National security is an illusion,” she says. “What security.”
Not one to just complain about the horrific working conditions in Miami the agent offered some suggestions for the incoming commissioner.
Many sources feel candidates for DHS require greater hiring standards and if the candidate has dual passports take their foreign passport away as a condition of employment. It is felt the agencies need to enforce conflict of interest, and put an end to fraternizing with foreigners, and firms such as airlines, cruise ship lines, and cargo companies without penalties of a transfer of authority. It is felt such actions will create loyalty to America.
CBP officials need to treat their employees with respect to earn the respect of their officers at all pay grades in order to rebuild morale and trust.
Fire the current internal and incompetent management regime that has been put in place by offering promotions through participation in the sex-ring and allow an independent agency to investigate the Customs agency.
The CBP agency should be more like the military. Customs at the ports of entry are the front lines to those persons, aircraft, ships, and other forms of transportation including cargo entering the country. Assign those employees from other countries away from their region or hometowns. This will take the temptation away to let people slide that are questionable and need to be detained for further questioning.
After interviewing several agents at different ports of entry, different agencies and different environments it has become critically clear DHS has some major problems. If these issues are not resolved quickly all the employees forecasted an ominous act of terrorism on the horizon. An anonymous agent summed it up best; “There is simply no connecting the dots between departments let alone agencies. It’s a recipe for disaster.”
This brings us back to the retiring Jayson Ahern, and ultimately DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Will she and incoming Commissioner Bersin do anything about internal on-duty misconduct, promotions earned solely for sexual activities, gross incompetence, all while they are supposed to be an agency with a key national security mission?
The impact of Ahern’s legacy outside the sex ring is contained in a memo dated September 2005 regarding Hurricane Katrina and the processing of illegal aliens- this memo was circulated within CBP employees. Illegal aliens only needed to utter Hurricane Katrina Relief it was their free pass to stay in U.S. without documentation or background checks. This was considered by some as the ultimate Disneyland free pass. Of course to this day New Orleans is known for its increase in crime, particularly in the areas where illegal aliens reside – significantly increased as reported by CNN.
Particular points of interest contained in the memo include; “The individual does not pose any known terrorist threat to the U.S.; the individual does not pose any immediate threat to the U.S. for criminal activity; and the individual is not likely to add to the illegal immigrant population in the U.S.” How one can gather this information without the benefit of a background check is beyond many CBP employees- they understood this was nothing more than granting “parole” or amnesty.
Ultimately, will Napolitano and DHS properly investigate CBP’s sex-ring and the inappropriate conduct (including promotions) and put an end to it all? Will they begin terminating managers who retire with full benefits though their service has been less than honorable? Or will it be business as usual, meaning the internal terror continues against officers more interested in sex games, until our next 9-11 happens?
What is clear is that Jayson Ahern leaves a shameful legacy behind him. Napolitano claims Ahern has ‘led CBP and we have benefited from his wisdom.’ Let’s hope the incoming Commissioner does learn that the benefits of business as usual equals failure and wisdom can lead to courage and change.
This story will continue…
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