Customs whistleblower sues treasury secretary

By WND Staff

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A former U.S. Customs special agent, who says she was fired after exposing corruption and security breaches at New York’s Kennedy Airport, is suing Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, reports Insight magazine.

Diane Kleiman, who once worked as a prosecutor in New York, blew the whistle in 1999 about alleged drug trafficking and money laundering by airline workers.

Kleiman reported cash missing from drug seizures and drug overdoses by Customs employees. She also complained about a lack of proper employee background checks.

She claims her supervisor asked her to commit perjury to conceal the drug smuggling by airline employees and that she was fired when she refused to participate in the cover-up.

Kleiman, who has been unable to find work since leaving Customs, is demanding back pay, benefits, attorneys’ fees and other compensatory damages. The lawsuit also contends her dismissal violated fair employment and whistleblower protection laws.

Kleiman says she received a letter indicating she’d been fired for sharing information with a DEA agent that resulted in an arrest and seizure of 46 pounds of cocaine.

She asks, ”How does the government think the Homeland Security program will succeed when agencies do not share information?”

According to Insight, Kleiman believes current efforts to beef up security through airport screening and background checks won’t protect the American public from potential harm if senior Customs officials are allowed to continue to engage in what she calls ”self-serving bureaucratic damage control.”

”In January 1999, I had seized about $30,000 taped to the belly of a baggage handler who worked for American Airlines and who was an illegal alien,” Kleiman says.

”Upon doing a background check, I determined that this very same employee had been stopped only three months earlier for attempting to smuggle about the same amount of money. My boss refused to allow me to report this employee to security at American Airlines, and at the time of my firing, he was still employed at the airlines.”

Kleiman also says she frequently drove her unmarked government vehicle in restricted areas of the airport and was never stopped or questioned about what she was doing there.

”I realized that whether day or evening, I could drive my vehicle up to any of the planes, which were unattended, and could place bombs and weapons on these planes. I reported this to my boss as well and was told to keep quiet,” she said.

Kleiman claims her Customs supervisors ”doctored” her performance evaluations and that she has original copies that rate her performance consistently higher than the so-called ”official” versions.

She also says she was a victim of a hostile work environment and was called epithets such as ”Jew bitch.”

Kleiman’s allegations are currently being investigated by the Office of Special Counsel as well as by staff members from Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley’s office.

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Martin Edwin Andersen is a reporter for Insight magazine.