Cablegate: Contraband Enforcement Team Discussed with Customs


DE RUEHKG #0385/01 0791516
R 201516Z MAR 07





E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/20/2017


Classified By: DCM JAMES T. HEG FOR REASONS 1.5(B) AND (D)

1. (SBU) Summary: Acting NAS Director (NASDIR) followed up
earlier conversations with Assistant Commissioner Cecil Brown
and Contraband Enforcement Team (CET) Director Karl McKen
(reftel) by meeting with Commissioner of Customs Hector Jones
on March 9. The purpose was to get the Commissioner's
position on issues affecting the future of CET including the
future location of their office, shortage of human resources,
the Customs Services ability to maintain mobile x-ray
machines that NAS plans to procure and the status of
NAS-funded polygraphs. Jones failed to provide definitive
responses on most of these issues. End Summary.


2. (SBU) Last summer, Commissioner Jones told NASDIR that the
building from which the CET currently operates would be
destroyed (per plans by the Jamaica Port Authority) and they
would be moved to Berth 11, which was being renovated. DHS
personnel engaged in implementing the Container Security
Initiative (CSI) would, he said, be co-located with CET in
Berth 11. Recently, it came to NASDIR's attention that this
was no longer the plan. The Port Authority apparently told
Jones that Berth 11 should house all of Customs (not just
CET) and the CSI personnel. There would be space for 77
personnel at that site.

3. (SBU) Jones advised, on March 9, that Berth 11 will not
provide all the office space required by Customs. Therefore,
he had decided to move some CET personnel into Berth 11,
where the CSI people would operate. The balance, he said,
will need to remain where they are. Jones stated that he had
requested the Port Authority to renovate another building
(which had been identified for destruction) for future use of
all CET and CSI personnel. That building is currently
occupied by Container Services, Ltd. and is referred to as
the CSL building. According to Jones, the Port Authority
agreed to let Customs lease CET's existing building for
another year, pending renovation of the CSL building.

4. (C) The Commissioner explained that he wants CET and CSI
to have a "sterile environment" in which to work. That, he
said, would not be the case with Berth 11. Customs brokers
and others from the private sector will be milling around
Berth 11, since regular Customs is there as well. Comment:
Jones' explanation for the change sounds good, but other
sources have indicated that the Port Authority has not agreed
to renovate the CSL building and still intends to destroy it.
It appears that Jones backed off on his earlier commitment
regarding the CET in favor of insuring that regular Customs
personnel are adequately accommodated. Post needs to clarify
with the Port Authority of Jamaica whether CET will be
allowed to to stay where it is for another year and whether
they really intend to renovate the CSL building for CET. End


5. (C) Leading up to the issue of a shortage in CET staffing,
NASDIR pointed out that intelligence suggests that drug
traffickers are focusing on transporting cocaine and
marijuana by containers. For that reason, NASDIR said, the
interdiction role of the CET has taken on increased
importance. In addition, NASDIR pointed out that, between
the Airport Interdiction Task Force (which should begin
operating next week) and CSI, the demand for CET personnel
had increased. Nonetheless, NASDIR cited the fact that
around 12 authorized positions have not been filled for many
months. It has been speculated, NASDIR suggested, that
failure to attract qualified applicants could be attributed
to a perception that CET jobs are higher-risk than those of
regular customs. At the same time, the pay scale and
benefits are the same for both. NASDIR asked if it would be
possible for CET to get a special allowance in order to
attract applicants. Jones said he did not think pay/benefits
was the problem (although he offered no other explanation).
He said CET people get to work lots of overtime, implying
that was an economic incentive to apply for CET jobs. Jones
concluded that he would consider the allowance.

6. (C) Comment: NASDIR confirmed with Brown that CET
personnel are able to work overtime. However, Brown stated
that has not attracted applicants. Based on information from
other sources, it appears that Jones has no real intention of
seriously considering a special allowance for CET personnel.
His attitude on staffing, like his attitude about office
space for CET, is one of indifference or worse. Morale is

low in CET thanks in large measure to Jones. And, perhaps
that is a major factor in CET's inability to attract
qualified applicants. End Comment.


In response to a request from CET last year, NAS plans to
purchase two mobile x-ray machines (mounted on the back of
vehicles). Jones was asked if Customs can give assurance
that these machines/vehicles will be kept in good repair by
Customs. He said Customs would fund a maintenance contract
for them and issue guidelines for their use. Jones claimed
he will get the money for this from the Customs budget. At
the same time, he wondered whether the purchase cost included
the first year's maintenance. NAS is looking into that, but,
other than a warranty, it is not likely.


7. (C) NASDIR explained to the Commissioner that of seven CET
people who were polygraphed last September, only two were
deemed to have passed. Polygraphs, at that time, were in
conjunction with forming the Airport Interdiction Task Force.
The Task Force will need six CET people. Another 21 are
slated to be polygraphed the week of March 19. According to
Jones, there was no problem in staffing the Task Force as
four other CET personnel had passed polygraphs administered
earlier by the Canadians. Comment: That is true, but most
occupy sensitive positions within CET, some in Montego Bay.
McKen would prefer to keep them where they are. End Comment.

8. (C) Going a step further, NASDIR also told Jones that CET
Director Karl McKen had been polygraphed in January 2007 and
that he had passed. But, NASDIR expressed concern about the
fact that Lenworth Levers, who had been acting CET Director
for the last four months of last year, failed the polygraph
in September. While NASDIR said he realized that failing a
polygraph did not constitute grounds for firing personnel,
the Commissioner should give some thought about what to do
with polygraph results. In the case of Levers, for example,
NASDIR said we would find it very difficult to deal with him
if he were to occupy the position of acting CET director

9. (C) Jones asked to get the polygraph results. NASDIR told
him we would provide a list of names of persons polygraphed
with a notation by each name as to whether they passed or
failed. Comment: That should be provided to Jones by next
week. It remains to be seen what if anything he intends to
do with the information. Moving CET people who fail back
into regular Customs will aggravate the staffing shortage in
CET, which is another reason Jones needs to get off the dime
and come up with a plan to attract applicants for CET
positions. End Comment.


10. (C) On March 13, NASDIR met briefly with Mrs. Vinette
Keene, Director General of the Tax Administration
Directorate, and Jones' immediate supervisor. Although the
purpose of the meeting was to reconfirm an interest on her
part for training for some of her tax staff, NASDIR mentioned
his meeting with Jones. Before he could get into a full
discussion of that meeting, Keene proceeded to explain that
she had a problem with Jones. She indicated that, last year,
she decided that he must take leave from September into
January. He resisted, and, according to Mrs. Keene he said,
"people kill people for things like this." Keene said there
was a witness to his threat against her. Jones did take the
leave, however. In the meantime, Keene filed a report with
Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Shields. Shields passed the
complaint to Les Green, who is another International Police
Officer and heads Organized and Serious Crime. Keene said
she had heard nothing back from Green on the matter. When it
was time for Jones to return to work, Keene tried
unsuccessfully to extend his leave for a couple more weeks.
Her boss, Finance Secretary Colin Bullock, approved Jones'
return to work even though she is the immediate supervisor.
According to Keene, she at least expected Bullock to meet
with the two of them in order to work things out. At
minimum, Keene expected an apology from Jones for threatening
her. She never got it. What is more, she claims she came
under enormous pressure to leave Jones alone from several
ministers of the government, including Minister of National
Security Peter Phillips. At the conclusion of the meeting
with Mrs. Keene, she asked if NASDIR would let Mark Shields
know that she had never gotten a response from Les Green.
Comment: According to Shields, Green attempted unsuccessfully
to contact Keene by telephone. He said Green would try
again. Shields also indicated there was considerable

political interest in protecting Jones. End Comment.


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