The Amador County Sheriff / Coroner Office in scenic Northern California about an hour east of Sacramento has released a statement on February 24th about the discovery of the body of Philip Haney in their jurisdiction. Mr. Haney was a renowned DHS Whistleblower during the Obama Administration. Earlier reports of a self-inflicted gunshot wound were premature. An ongoing investigation will determine the actual cause of death.
THE FOCUS OF THIS ARTICLE
We are not going to speculate what caused the untimely demise of Phil Haney. Much background about his testimony before the United States Congress and appearances on national television can be easily found on YouTube and via Google query.
Rather my purpose here is to look at the long-term intelligence posture of the late, great U.S. Customs Service as a U.S. Treasury Department agency and its successor, U.S. Customs and Border Protection as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Customs was established in 1789, concurrent with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and endured until 2003, when in the wake of 9/11/2001, the administration of President George W. Bush made a decision to merge Customs and Immigration missions into combined agencies under the new Department of Homeland Security. The inspectional side of the house became U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Many employees—I do NOT claim to speak for all—who made the transition still consider this an ill-advised shotgun wedding of agencies with entirely distinct missions. I have previously written about that subject, but today we’ll focus on the role of intelligence and targeting and the impact of the merger.
After serving in the United States Air Force back during the Vietnam era, getting my Bachelor of Arts degree in 1978, I was hired by the U.S. Customs Service here in Honolulu in 1979 as a Customs Inspector. As I have previously written, I also served in assignments in Los Angeles and Washington DC.
I was a Supervisory Customs Inspector at the time of the merger in 2003. I served as a Supervisory CBP Officer until 2006, at which time I did a lateral transfer to become a Field Analysis Specialist focusing upon intelligence and targeting, which had been an important collateral duty up until that time. I continued in that capacity until my retirement with 42 years Federal service in 2015.
This marks my 110th article for NOQ Report since February 25, 2019.
MEMORANDUM OF INFORMATION RECEIVED [MOIR]
My intended audience here is primarily those who are familiar with the work that Philip Haney did in Atlanta utilizing this intelligence format. That would include both those within the government and those who have read Phil Haney’s book “See Something, Do Nothing”.
Customs was always more highly automated than Immigration. While we had our computer here in Honolulu—Treasury Enforcement Communications System [TECS]—many of our counterparts were still utilizing the old INS Subject Look Out Book [SLOB]. Many times we walked people back to them that they had missed when they popped up in our computer when we were functioning as totally separate agencies. Actually, even then, we were designated to admit U.S. citizens with a stamp bypassing the immigration inspectors upstairs, but all non-citizens had to clear with them first.
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Other Ports of Entry had varying systems. When I worked at LAX in 1986, even as separate agencies in different departments, Customs Inspectors were cross-trained and cross-designated to do Immigration primary functions, referring to Immigration secondary those who needed additional processing.
MOIRs were developed to document information obtained during inspectional processing, clearance of commercial cargo and other official duties. The ones I did during the early 1980s, were all input on a typewriter using multi-copy carbon sets. They were written, approved and disseminated manually. Computer records however were still input and generated even during that MS-DOS era.
In 1987, while I was working at Los Angeles / Long Beach Harbor as a member of the Contraband Enforcement Team, the TECS II system came online. I volunteered to take the complete online tutorial and help train my fellow officers in its use.
MOIRs for the first time were automated and linked to subject lookout records. It’s not my purpose here to go into the details or mechanics of how this worked. The point is just that it provided a procedure to get information to those who could use it for both strategic and tactical targeting purposes of suspects, including persons, businesses, organizations, vehicles, vessels and aircraft.
Different from Reports of Investigation done by Customs agents, inspectional MOIRS were just what they said, information as a resource. That information was used by agents as well as inspectors, however, to perform their respective missions. MOIRs and subject lookout records were available to U.S government personnel worldwide, primarily Customs, but also other law enforcement personnel under appropriate information sharing regulations.
I did several hundred MOIRs during my long Customs career. What I want to do now is look at how this system was designed and how things changed after the creation of U.S. Customs and Border Protection under Department of Homeland Security.
A DIFFERENT MENTALITY UNDER CBP
Things were not perfect in the U.S. Customs Service intelligence system, but it was recognized that every Customs Inspector was responsible to fully document any information that did not require delaying inspectional processing, but which was of official concern for later analysis. That was the purpose of the MOIR in a nutshell.
I was recognized for preparing a terror-related MOIR prior to the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics while I was assigned here in Honolulu, analyzing documents obtained by one of my colleagues regarding a passenger from the Middle East. However, there was a brief time later when regional inspectors were given points for their performance reviews based upon how many intel reports they prepared. The emphasis on quantity rather than quality led to a standing joke about MOIRs entitled “General Smuggling ~ Alleged”. That policy was rethought and rescinded.
When I returned to Honolulu from U.S. Customs HQ in Washington DC at the end of 1991, I used this intelligence system extensively. I will spare the details because that isn’t the thrust of this article.
Rather, what I’m concerned about is how things changed on March 1, 2003 when the U.S. Customs Service ceased to exist and U.S. Customs and Border Protection came into existence. It is that environment in which Phil Haney did all his superb analysis and targeting.
I cannot overemphasize how various Customs Ports of Entry operate in different environments. There are, of course, seaports and land border ports, but here we are concentrating on international airports. Phil was in Atlanta, one of the busiest airports in the entire world, a very target-rich environment for identifying terror suspects and organizations. He was the perfect officer for that context.
Here in Hawaii, we had to make the most of documenting the smaller number of suspects who passed through this port, primarily from Asia or via Asia from the Middle East, whereas Atlanta had numerous non-stop flights from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Phil Haney was an entomologist by training who originally became a CBP Agricultural Specialist, but his expertise in Arabic and Islamic culture provided the opportunity for him to greatly enhance and advance American national security under CBP. Frankly, the problem, as I perceive it, was that his chain of command did not share his expertise nor did they fully comprehend the significance and importance of what he was doing.
Twice over the years, there were attempts by mutual colleagues outside the agency to put me in contact with him but somehow we never quite touched bases. I truly wish that could have happened as I would have loved to talk to him and compare notes.
You can read his book for yourself if you want to understand all the details of what he went through trying to identify terror suspects and organizations, going against the grain in an agency obsessed by reducing processing times for the traveling public. Those are the things that managers are rated on rather than their intelligence posture. Sad, but a fact of life.
A lot of people are going to read these words and relate to them without wanting to go on record, but they understand how the bureaucracy perpetuates itself.
DID PHIL HANEY BUCK THE SYSTEM?
Of course he did, as he frankly stipulated, but with a sense of urgency for national security which he understood so much better than did his bosses. Whether you work for the government or private industry, knowing more than your bosses does not make for a good work environment and/or enhance your career unless you suck up and bury your God-given talents.
I’m not going to do a deep dive into the Obama Administration which Phil Haney was apparently in the process of preparing another book about. I will just say that early into his first term, our 44th president and his minions, most prominently and visibly John Brennan, began to censor the underlying ideology of Islamic Jihad, with Countering Violent Extremism becoming the euphemism. Political correctness became the order of the day, the year, year after year.
If you really want to understand the threat, and are willing to spend time reading a 700+ page treatise relying heavily upon Islamic sources themselves, you can order from Amazon a book authored by censored National Security expert Stephen Coughlin in 2015, entitled Catastrophic Failure ~ Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad. I read it 5 years ago but it still rings true today.
Nor will I delve into what changes may or may not have occurred under President Donald Trump as I was already retired when he came into office. I will just say that POTUS 45’s National Security Advisors have had very different levels of comprehension of the threat.
AWAITING A DETERMINATION OF THE CAUSE OF PHIL HANEY’S TRAGIC DEATH
The local authorities in Northern California have wisely chosen to call in the FBI and take seriously the interest in this case and its significance nationwide. I won’t go into the many reasons that those who followed the dedicated career of Phil Haney do not expect this to be ruled as a suicide.
He had much to live for, loved our country, recognized that his abilities came from Almighty God, not from mortals. He made many enemies from many sides. Not only those intending to commit terror and do harm in the name of Islamic Jihad, but perhaps those who felt he was a threat in other ways to their own personal career ambitions.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Amador County Sheriff / Coroner with FBI assistance can determine how Phil Haney died and hopefully who did it, but the buck must NOT stop there: WHO ALL wanted him dead and WHY?