This letter is in reference to the article (Aug. 21), “Navy Thefts Probe Delayed by Agencies’ Turf Battles.” As the area special agent in charge of the U.S. Customs Service, Office of Investigations in San Diego, I would like to state that this article is rife with inaccuracies.
Let me state that throughout this complex investigation there were never any “turf battles,” as stated by your staff writers. To the contrary, the three agencies involved, U.S. Customs, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Investigative Service, worked closely and harmoniously together. At no time were Customs agents “angered” when the wiretap authorization was sought under FBI statutes, as it was known from the onset of the investigation that there is no wiretap authority under the Arms Export Control Act.
Nor were Customs agents “dismayed” when they were “directed” to bring the FBI “back into the case.” The truth of the matter is that the FBI was invited into the case, as was the Naval Investigative Service, when the investigation by U.S. Customs disclosed that certain violations that come under their investigative jurisdiction were probably being committed by the principals in the investigation.
Additionally, the article states that Customs officials had “failed to notify the Navy of their probe until early this year because they feared that Navy personnel involved might be “tipped off.” In truth, the Naval Investigative Service was notified considerably earlier in the investigation than stated, and high ranking Navy authorities in Washington were also continuously briefed as the investigation progressed.
Your writers were also erroneous when they stated that the wiretap was initially of no help because of the languages spoken by the principals. I would point out that it was known substantially before a wiretap was even contemplated that the principals spoke Tagalog and Pampango, and as a result persons with these language capabilities were in a standby status when the wiretap began.
In conclusion, let me say that this investigation, contrary to the implications by your staff writers, serves as a shining example of how several different law enforcement agencies with different philosophies and jurisdictions can work together toward a common goal.
KENNETH W. INGLEBY
Area Special Agent in Charge
U.S. Customs Service
Office of Investigation