7061 East Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, Ohio 44131 • (216) 241-2630 / Fax: (216) 241-6516

News and Issues
User Info

Train trouble

(This column by Rebecca Hagelin was first published by WorldNetDaily.com not long after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Because of the recent terrorism in Spain involving trains, what the writer had to say is even more timely than before.)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Five thousand to 10,000 unsearched, unchecked pressurized rail tanker cars are entering the U.S. every day from south of the border – this amazing phenomenon may be the single greatest security threat facing our nation today.

While the feds are fumbling around putting on a great show of improved airline security, no one seems to know that all of America is completely vulnerable to the immediate threat that the railway system poses to every town across the country, every second of every day. If my recent column on the disastrous efforts to improve airline security bothered you, this column just may keep you up at night.

Every man, woman and child in our country is vulnerable at this very moment to deadly terrorist attacks due to the ongoing failures and corruption of the U.S. Customs Office. The facts are disturbingly simple: The rail yard in Guadalajara, Mexico, has been used for years as a major distribution center for drugs into the United States. This rail yard is controlled by the infamous Arellano-Felix cartel. An estimated 500 to 1,000 of the tanker rail cars that freely enter our country on any given day contain tons of narcotics – and the U.S. Customs office, due to internal corruption, has failed to stop it.

Osama bin Laden controls the world's largest heroin crop which is located in Afghanistan, and he has used it for years to help finance his many crimes. His drugs, and other massive Middle East drug crops, have for years been shipped across the seas to train yards in South America and Mexico, and loaded onto trains headed our way.

Do we not realize that this same method may currently be in use for sending tons of chemical, biological or other warfare into the U.S.? At the very least, these highly pressurized tanker cars, designed to carry hazardous, explosive materials, would easily make the world's largest pipe bombs.

It's so very easy. Those who lease the tanker cars can set up their orders via the Internet or over the phone. No measures are in place to identify who the customer is – get a fake ID, establish a phony front company and presto! Automatic access to America's railways is achieved. The tanker cars are then controlled remotely as they move through the maze of thousands of railroad tracks and "spurs" that snake through every major and many minor towns in the nation.

Virtually every center of economic activity, every branch of local, state and national government, every large population group is located within a mile of one of these spurs. Get in your car and drive to the nearest railway yard, depot or station and you'll see the long, oval-shaped, usually black (but sometimes white) tanker cars. Then, imagine what's in them – you can bet a master-mind like bin Laden has been pondering their many uses for quite some time. Customs and railroad brokers receive no training in terrorist tactics or profiling, so even the honest agent-on-the-ground has been left helpless by the very system he or she is working for.

Allowing drugs to flood our nation through the railway system is one obvious reason we have lost the "war on drugs." It could very well be the reason why we might also lose the "war on terrorism."

My good friend Gary Aldrich of the Patrick Henry Center recently introduced me to a real American hero who was thwarted in her efforts to tighten-up our borders. An 11-year veteran of the United States Customs Service, former agent Darlene Catalan resigned her position in protest after blowing the whistle about the corruption and ineffectiveness of the customs department in halting the flow of illegal drugs into our country via the railways. As a review of her biography reveals, her credentials are impeccable, as is her record of service – that is, until she became a whistleblower.

In the spring of 1998, she led a large undercover rail operation with the Union Pacific Railroad Police, the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad Police and the San Bernardino Police Department. A federal prosecutor was assigned to the project, and it was given the top-ranked OCDETF status. After having successfully seized 32 kilos of cocaine and 8,000 pounds of marijuana from a pressurized tanker car, this brave and amazing agent was able to uncover the huge distribution operation in the Guadalajara rail yard.

Just as she and her co-workers were about to nail the bad guys, the U.S. Customs managers torpedoed the efforts. Man-power was abruptly pulled, surveillance was halted and the same courageous agents that nearly broke the ring became the target of numerous frivolous investigations by their own agency. Subsequent other investigations into tanker cars were also halted, resulting in dozens of previously identified suspect cars being released into the U.S. population. The good guys resigned from the agency in protest, and these havens for drugs and explosives have been entering our country unfettered ever since.

In a recent conversation with Catalan she said, "The U.S. customs agency is the only agency that has the authority to search huge containers (and human beings) without a search warrant. It's called Border Search Authority. The obvious question we must ask ourselves is, 'What are they doing with this incredible power?' The disturbing answer is that agency individuals often use it for their own benefit."

Then she went on with a chilling summary: "Working for U.S. Customs was like working for the Mafia. If you kiss the Don's ring and are a 'yes person,' you will go far. If you refuse to compromise your integrity, you'll get nailed by internal affairs. Organized crime is effective because they always have an enforcement arm – the enforcement arm for U.S. Customs is the Internal Affairs division. Its tremendous power is what usually keeps officers and agents from blowing the whistle."

Because the U.S. Customs Agency is the front-line defense for what does and does not enter or leave our country, our national security is severely weakened and U.S. borders are wide-open for terrorist business. Catalan has so many examples of customs corruption she's even authored a book called "U.S. Customs – Badge of Dishonor." (Click here for more immediate information on U.S. Customs corruption.)

In the meantime, start screaming bloody murder at your elected officials and demand action. An unsearched tanker car is headed to a track near you.

Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think-tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense. She is also the former vice president of communications for WorldNetDaily and her 60-second radio commentaries can be heard on the Salem Communications Network.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Like us on Facebook at

Sign up for BLET News Flash Alerts

© 1997-2021 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen


Decertification Helpline
(216) 694-0240

National Negotiations

Sign up for BLET
News Flash Alerts


AAR reports rail traffic for week ending October 16, 2021; Intermodal drops for 11th straight week
NS requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees
LA Port breaks cargo record again as 96 anchored ships wait and authorities scramble to end mammoth backups
UP says 24/7 California port operations no quick fix
Union Pacific cuts 2021 volume growth forecast on auto, intermodal woes
Amtrak asks STB to compel cooperation by CSX in Gulf Coast case
Senate transportation appropriations bill includes funds for passenger rail, transit
Amtrak plans major expansion by 2035 if infrastructure bill passes
California passenger rail corridors form “advocacy coalition”
Amtrak Pacific Surfliner expands California service
Q&A: Railroad Retirement spouse benefits
Q&A: RRB appeals procedures
Get the latest labor news from the Teamsters

More Headlines