PRE SCRIPT: Believe it or not I have actually been working for the past month. I’ll never do that again.  I missed my internet writing. Hopefully you did too. Pull up a chair and let’s get reacquainted.   In my 37 years and 7 months with the Federal Government, I have seen my  fair share of failed federal policies but probably none more doomed than many of those in the heyday of the war on drugs. I wrote this piece about 25 years ago during Bush One. It is in exaggeration for comedic purpose of course. Of course!   I must say though having recently travelled to Vegas by air, the singular most idiotic, no benefit whatsoever, no one with balls to stop it procedure of all is the removal of your shoes in an airport. In fact this is the single most issue I will be voting on in November. The candidate who allows us to leave our shoes on will get my vote. I’m sure this question will be at the top of the debates. If this was lunacy when we had to go through metal detectors alone, it reached the zenith of absurdity when they installed bazillion dollar body scan machines at those security checkpoints. Are we really to believe that these space age x-ray machines cannot see through a flip-flop or a thin piece of sneaker canvas?  Now don’t misunderstand, I have worked with some amazingly dedicated and wonderful people over the years and of course I am talking about all of you who are my Facebook friends, but let’s face it we also know the feds sometimes don’t get the best and the brightest – especially as President.

BUSTED

Whenever I‘m at a party and meet someone for the first time and they ask what I do for a living and I tell them that I’m gainfully employed by the United States Customs Service, I always get the same reaction. It’s like being a doctor or a lawyer; everyone wants to discuss a symptom or an accident they had to see if they were really sick or had a valid lawsuit. In my case, it’s always the same. People love to run a smuggling idea by me to see if it will work or better yet to see if their plan is so fool proof that I’ll immediately offer to help them carry it out.

Well for 18 years, I’ve never committed one way or the other, which is probably why I am still at Customs and not living in San Quentin. To answer their questions truthfully and give them an idea of the odds, I usually tell two stories, both of which are illustrations of a policy and not actual factual incidents that occurred.

The first we shall call “ The Tale of the Pregnant Priest”. You see Customs, just like every other law enforcement or drug interdiction agency, is only as good as its last bust. This is a fact carefully hidden from the public through some exceptional PR work. Here’s how it goes. Suppose one fine afternoon a flight from Bogota arrives in New York, Los Angeles, Miami or wherever and let’s suppose there is a Customs inspector actually on site who wasn’t hired five minutes ago. He’s at the booth and a priest walks up, collar and all. The only thing amiss is that his belly is protruding about two feet. The inspector, having a particular alcohol free, lucid day becomes suspicious and says “O, no you’re not going anywhere’ and takes him to secondary. Why I don’t know since there is no firstary. Anyway they search the belly and find copious amounts of cocaine. They’ve got him! So what happens next? Into the computer goes this information. Tons of bulletins are issued. From this day forward every officer as well as drug enforcement agent will be on the lookout for pregnant priests! The regular smugglers can all relax now. They waltz right through in their business suits without even bothering with false bottom shoes. Moral of the story? If you want to smuggle just wait for us to be looking for the pregnant priest.

That story was for the small time smuggler, those who chose to wear their drugs. Now for all you big time dealers- you know who you are- Lord knows Customs doesn’t. For those that want to approach the big time in drug smuggling, pay attention.  Let’s say you are big time, a few tons a few week. You have a regular connection, I assume or you wouldn’t be this big. There’s always a bunch of pigeons who head to Colombia every day with the notion that if they just get one shipment through they will be sittin’ pretty for life. Now that’s what makes them amateurs – THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ENOUGH MONEY in the drug world. Ask anyone who has already brought in a hundred tons and is on to his next hundred. In Colombia, the dealers are always looking for a few good pigeons, much like the US government. Here’s how it works.

The supplier finds one of these amateurs who wants to buy five or six kilos. The dealer sets up the shipments to be sent in say talcum powder, for example. Real easy, who would suspect. So our little pigeon goes for it, turns over the cash and the deal is done. Not quite. In the meantime, a very large shipment for a big time dealer is also being prepared. As luck would have it both shipments are going on the same cargo flight. Coincidence? I think not. The supplier has now called every local authority as well as every US government foreign office he can think of to alert them to the big talcum powder shipment. He is even paid a handsome fee from our trusty government if the information results in a bust. The big shipment is put on the plane without even bothering to conceal it. Customs in the port is very excited. To meet the flight there are ten or twenty Customs inspectors and numerous DEA agents and their mothers tripping over themselves to get to these boxes of talcum powder. Meanwhile, they can’t get the rest of the cargo off the plane enough.

They take the powder, find the five kilos of coke and are all congratulating each other on their brilliant detecting abilities.   A press conference is held and the top brass once again assures the taxpayers that their hard earned money is being well spent. No one mentions that the bust was the result of a five pesos telephone call. The huge shipment, a hundred kilos or so, comes sailing through Customs with hardly a second glance. What happens next? Into the computer goes an alert to check all future shipments of talcum powder. Our fine government really believes that smugglers do not read the papers and that there is no smuggler’s newsletter telling everyone what the latest busted smuggling vehicle was. Our federal government truly believes that if a smuggler is caught once using a particular method, they will just go on using that same method again and again. Don’t ask me, I have no idea what precipitates this priceless piece of logic.

So for the next six months, Customs manages to irritate Johnson & Johnson tremendously. It seems they have been manufacturing their talcum powder in Germany for years and now all of a sudden every one of their shipments are being delayed by Customs for weeks while zealous inspectors rip apart their boxes looking for more drugs. Why? Because the computer SAYS SO!! Did I mention that the guy who put the bust information into the computer forgot to add that the alert is for talcum powder coming from Colombia only? How does J&J solve this problem? They call one of their Congressmen they paid good money for and he sends a nasty letter to Customs to straighten it out.   So if anybody out there runs into our President or one of his drug czars tell them we may be losing the war on drugs, but we’re doing a hell of a job protecting our country against talcum powder abuse!