San Diego Last week's admission by ex-U.S. Customs officer Mike Horner that he had forged an internal memo cited by 60 Minutes in an April 1997 expos� of alleged corruption among high-ranking customs officials here may not be the last word. Federal prosecutors are said to be continuing their investigation into the case, but one of their targets claims they're engaged in a witch hunt. John Carman, another former Customs officer who has been critical of the agency, says he received a so-called "target letter" from the Justice Department in June. "This will advise you that you are the target of a federal grand jury investigation," says the letter furnished by Carman. "This grand jury investigation involves, among other things, the fabrication and forgery of a June 18, 1996, Memorandum on U.S. Customs Service stationery...and a letter and affidavit you sent to United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, regarding the authenticity of the June 18, 1996, Memorandum." The letter references allegations that Carman has "endeavored to obstruct a congressional inquiry, aided and abetted the use of forged documents, and conspired to defraud and commit offense against the United States." In a letter addressed to Federal prosecutors dated earlier this week, Carman responded: "Now that Mike Horner has finally admitted that he fabricated the 'Gas Transport Tanker Memo,' I am requesting that you explain why you have targeted me after I assisted you and the Customs Service in gathering this important evidence? You should now know that I did not have anything to do with the existence or manufacturing of that forged memo. You also could not have investigated this case without my direct assistance in this manner." Carman, who maintains a website critical of the way the Customs Service has been run, says he has been singled out for possible prosecution because he is a whistle-blower. "Why haven't you 'targeted' the other current or retired Customs officials that have known Mike Horner for as many years as I have known or worked with Mike Horner? You or your superiors seem to forget that I was not the only one that talked to Mike Horner. There were also many others that also did news media interviews as well as I did later on. This appears to be pure retaliation on its face." Ironically, the government's case comes on the heels of published reports that Rudy Camacho, purported author of the counterfeit memo, may be leaving San Diego. According to an account last month in the Journal of Commerce, "plans call for Camacho, head of Customs in San Diego, to take over as agency head in Los Angeles, and for the L.A. head, Audry Adams, to replace Camacho in San Diego." The magazine says that Customs chief Ray Kelly has been moving a number of officials in recent days. "People in the trade community who have watched as many familiar staffers have been reassigned understand that Kelly's management style is to move top staff members around within the service. He does this, they say, to maintain integrity and reduce the chances for collusion between top Customs officials and the industries they are regulating." A San Diego-based Customs spokesman referred queries about the matter to a public affairs officer in Washington who did not return phone calls.
A top business writer for the Union-Tribune left his job last week in an e-mailed burst of thunder against company management. Mike Drummond, author of the well-received book Renegades of the Empire: How Three Software Warriors Started a Revolution Behind the Walls of Fortress Microsoft, says he sent his missive to more than 2000 e-mail accounts on the U-T's computer system. "David Copley doesn't ride in a $12 million personal jet because the flagship news organ is swimming in red ink," wrote Drummond. "From all appearances, [U-T editor Karin] Winner, those ensconced on the fifth floor and the tribe in La Jolla seem comfortable with mediocrity. Moreover, they also seem unwilling to advocate salary increases, flexible work hours, telecommuting, and other employee-friendly remedies to stem the brain drain." Drummond will become a senior writer at Business 2.0, a new technology magazine.
Contributor: Matt Potter