This is just horrifying.
Dan L’Allier said he witnessed 45 tons of the New York loot being unloaded in Minnesota at his company’s headquarters. He and Christopherson complained to a company executive, but were ordered to keep quiet. They persisted, going instead to the FBI.
The two whistleblowers eventually lost their jobs, received death threats and were blackballed in the disaster relief industry. But they remained convinced their sacrifice was worth seeing justice done.
They were wrong.
Once-secret documents obtained by The Associated Press detail how the company, Kieger Enterprises of Lino Lakes, Minn., went unpunished for the Sept. 11 thefts after the government discovered FBI agents and other government officials had stolen artifacts from New York’s ground zero.
As a result, most Americans were kept in the dark about a major fraud involving their donated goods even as new requests for charity emerged with disasters like Hurricane Katrina. And Christopherson and L’Allier were left disillusioned.
“I wouldn’t open my mouth again for all the tea in China,” L’Allier said. Added Christopherson, a 34-year-old father of two: “I paid a big price.”
The lead investigators for the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency told AP that the plan to prosecute KEI for those thefts stopped as soon as it became clear in late summer 2002 that an FBI agent in Minnesota had stolen a crystal globe from ground zero.
That prompted a broader review that ultimately found 16 government employees, including a top FBI executive and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, had such artifacts from New York or the Pentagon.
“How could you secure an indictment?” FEMA investigator Kirk Beauchamp asked. “It would be a conflict.”
Prosecutors “and the FBI were very conscious of the fact that if they proceeded in one direction, they would have to proceed in the other, which meant prosecuting FBI agents,” said Jane Turner, the lead FBI agent. She too became a whistleblower alleging the bureau tried to fire her for bringing the stolen artifacts to light. Turner retired in 2003.
I don’t think the following is a very good argument, though:
Nick Gess, another former federal prosecutor, said the agents’ actions shouldn’t have precluded prosecuting the company.
“DEA agents have been found to smoke pot occasionally,” Gess said. “That doesn’t mean they (the Drug Enforcement Administration) can’t still work on drug cases.”