Magazine article Insight on the News

Customs Service Chief Quits under Fire

Magazine article Insight on the News

Customs Service Chief Quits under Fire

Article excerpt

In the face of mounting congressional frustration about the course of the war on drugs -- much of it provoked by Insight's investigative "Border Wars" series -- beleaguered Customs Commissioner George Weise announced on April 15 that he will step down this summer to pursue "private business opportunities."

Though Customs sought to portray Weise's departure as long-planned, news alert! has learned that the service's hard-pressed chief made his decision following warnings from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah and other prominent lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who told Weise he had to go. "He saw the writing on the wall," says a senior Senate aide. "Your articles have caused a storm here, and he knew he was heading for some very difficult congressional hearings and that he'd be lucky to survive."

Congressional sources say the final straw for Hatch came with Insight's disclosure that tankers and trucks owned by the Mexican narcotrafficking Zaragoza Fuentes family of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez are crossing the Southwest border with little if any Customs inspection (see "U.S. Drug Warriors Knock on Heaven's Door," April 21). Hatch, like Feinstein, also was irked to read about the transfer of the Customs director at California's San Ysidro port of entry, Jerry Martin, and details of internal-affairs investigations into the supervising inspector at the same port, Art Gilbert, who is being removed from Customs "for the good of the service" (see "Customs Officials Eat Crow at the Border," April 21).

Both senators had been assured by Weise on several occasions recently that allegations carried in Insight of misconduct and graft at San Ysidro were inaccurate. Martin and Gilbert were among eight California Customs officials investigated by an 18-month federal border-corruption probe that concluded in August 1996 with no charges filed. According to a Senate aide, Hatch threatened to haul Weise before the Judiciary Committee to accuse him of misinforming Congress about the drug-related turmoil engulfing San Ysidro and other U.S. border ports of entry. Hatch's and Feinstein's frustrations were matched by Democratic Rep. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.