Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Understanding the Heart of A Whistleblower "The Cathy Harris Story"

Understanding the Heart of 
A Whistleblower
"The Cathy Harris Story"

The Heart of A Whistleblower
The Heart of A Whistleblower

A whistleblower is a person who exposes mismanagement, abuses of authority, prohibited personnel practices, fraud, waste and abuse and other types of corruption, which affects the health, safety and the welfare of an ENTIRE NATION.

I too am a federal whistleblower, ( People call me the "Flying While Black" or "Racial Profiling" whistleblower. All communities must continue to rally behind all whistleblowers, because they are indeed, "The Good Guys."

First of all you need to understand the heart of whistleblowers and why they come forward and tell the truth in the first place. It's never about any type of financial gain, even though some whistleblowers in some industriesreceive millions of dollars.

When whistleblowers witness any type of illegality, their conscience will no longer allow them to remain silent. It is simply the right thing to do and they also want to follow it through to see changes made, if they don't end up in jail or homeless in the process of blowing the whistle. And this is why the public need to pay attention when whistleblowers come forward.

Just like the whistleblower from, I also reported egregious acts carried out by another federal government agency, U.S. Customs Service (now called Customs and Border Protection -, when in October 1998, I reported to Congress, the Senate and the media, that African American women international travelers were targeted and singled out for Customs' inspections, because they were suspected of being drug carriers or mules (had swallowed drugs), but the only crimes these women committed were "Flying While Black."

Most people don't know it but I initially decided to blow the whistle in 1998, when I read an article in the Final Call newspapers in Chicago, IL, about 80 women who had filed a historic lawsuit against the U.S. Customs Service. That number eventually rose to over 1300 African American women international travelers nationwide reaching out to Chicago's Attorney, Ed Fox, about Customs' practices.

These women, many professionals such as doctors, nurses, judges, lawyers, teachers, flight attendants, etc. were subjected to abusive pat-downs, humiliating strip searches, and prolonged detentions, which sometimes continued for up to 4 days, just so my co-workers could make OVERTIME MONEY.

I knew when I read the article from the Final Call newspapers, that they would need someone on the inside, an insider, and I knew from the very beginning it would have to be me.

I was already networking and discussing the illegal practices with other Customs Inspectors (now called Customs and Border Protection Officers) all over the country, but they all seemed to be hesitant to come forward.

But after being raised in rural Georgia as the family's black sheep, as the youngest daughter with 8 siblings, 5 big brothers, and 3 overbearing sisters, and after my military tour, U.S. Army, everything that I had went through in my life, had prepared me for what was yet to come, so those men on my job did not intimidate me at all.

And living in Atlanta, GA at the time, in the hometown of the late, great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew as a single mother, raising two daughters, that I had to jump into this fight, because clearly working for U.S. Customs Service, I was in a position to make a difference.

I had to step out on my faith and put it all on the line in order to make a difference. I was not only gambling with my life but the life and the future of my two young daughters.

Many of these women were targeted simply because they were wearing afrocentric attire or afrocentric hairstyles and this wasn't even in the Customs' guidelines, so these UNWRITTEN RULES resulted in prolonged detentions all over the country, just so Customs Inspectors could make more overtime money.

These African American women, who looked so much like me, like my mother, sisters, aunts, nieces, cousins and most of all my two daughters, were escorted from Customs' search rooms in handcuffs with their hands behind their backs, which signified that they had NO POWER. No drugs were ever found on these women, so why were they handcuffed in this manner?

Yet white and Hispanic men, who were actually caught with drugs at international airports, were handcuffed with their hands in front of them and even allowed to place a jacket, or some other piece of clothing over their handcuffs, so it did not look like they were handcuffed.

This type of practice made my heart weep. These women were thrown into the backs of government vehicles and taken to area hospitals and not only forced to be x-rayed WITHOUT pregnancy tests (later on many found out they were pregnant), but they were shackled to hospital beds for up to 4 days and "FORCE-FED" a laxative (go litely), even when it was obvious that they were pregnant, sometimes up to 6, 7 and 8 months pregnant. They ranged in ages from 13 to 70 years old.

Customs rules and regulations stated that as soon as these women passed 3 clear bowel movements, they could be released. However, bowel movements were not counted, and the goal was simply to detain them for as long as possible in order to make more overtime money.

Not only did they illegally detain these women, they made jokes back at the airports about them. Everyday when they arrived at work, they joked about having some black woman hemmed up at the hospital, while they were working 12 and 16 hours shifts, making tons of overtime money.

Shortly after being released from Customs' prolonged detentions, many of the African American women gave birth to babies weighing ONLY 2 to 3 pounds, with serious health issues and this too was "Another Tuskegee."

Many of the African American women were so stunned by their ordeals, especially after they were left sitting and weeping on sidewalks at international airports, not being able to move, that many ended up back in hospitals suffering from dehydration and other health issues, and some even ended up going to mental institutions suffering from depression and just a sense of worthiness. Some have refused to ever step on an airplane again.

Per Customs' regulations airlines were not allowed by the U.S. Customs Service to inform family members or friends that were waiting to pick up their loved ones from international flights, that they were being detained by the U.S. Customs Service.

So many of these family members and friends did not know what to think. Many suffered from mental anguish, especially when they felt it was a strong possibility that their family members or loved ones were laying dead somewhere, especially after disappearing for up to 4 days. What was one to think!

My heart weeped again after seeing these practices by the U.S. Customs Service, which had went on for years and years. I had witnessed illegal practices by the Customs Service in El Paso, TX, Miami, FL and Atlanta, GA, and eventually I said "enough is enough."

I had to put my entire livelihood on the line in order to make a difference. And that being said is from "The Heart of a Whistleblower," so we need to move forward and make sure the whistleblower (and all whistleblowers) have what they need (National Bank Trust Funds, or Crowdfunding Pages) to continue with some type of life.

Face it whistleblowing is a very hard thing to do and only 1% is ever successful. Most whistleblowers are never able to work with whistleblower attorneys, so I am so thankful and grateful I was able to work with the Government Accountability Project Attorneys Doug Hartnett and Tom Devine, out of Washington, DC.

If women, especially African American women, enjoy traveling overseas, they need to know upfront that I doubt seriously if there will ever be another whistleblower coming out of Customs and Border Protection (, which is now under the Department of Homeland Security (, that would truly be willing to risk it all.

I am even being told that the Customs Service is still violating international travelers, so the only thing that the American people have to teach them about what happened, and how it can happen again and how to fight back are my two books, "The Cathy Harris Story: A Whistleblower's Victorious Journey to Justice" and "The Failure of Homeland In-Security: The Government's Dirty Little Secrets from an Insider" - both available as e-books and paperback books at .

After I blew the whistle on U.S. Customs in 1998, and after tons of women travelers continued to come forward, Congressional and Senatorial hearings were held where the following changes were implemented:
  • The entire Personal Search Handbook was rewritten several times. 
  • Two bills were introduced to protect international travelers "The Reasonable Search Standards Act" by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) in 1999 & 2001 and the"Civil Rights for International Travelers Act"by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) in 1999 & 2001. New and updated brochures, signs, and other informational material, including the Customs declaration, were rewritten and reproduced. 
  • The decision to conduct a personal search of a passenger must now be decided by a GS-12 supervisor rather than a non-supervisory Inspector, including new Customs Inspectors. 
  • The Customs managers at the GS-14 or GS-15 levels must now approve x-ray examinations of all passengers. 
  • If a personal search of an individual lasts longer than two hours, a Customs supervisor will make a phone call to a person of the passenger's choice to tell them they are being delayed in Customs. 
  • Customs now requires that all secondary data collections include "race." 
  • CBP Officers are now wearing name tags so they can be easily identified for complaint letters and body scan machines can now take the place of pat-down inspections, but they are showing private parts so women should scan women. 
Changes I still would like to see occur. Our ultimate goals should be to form Citizen Review Boards to look at the following actions:
  • Urge the Senate and Congress to take immediate action, order investigations and conduct hearings into the internal practices of CBP and DHS, especially the new harsh Tables of Offenses under DHS. 
  • Urge legislators to hire sociologists and psychologists to study the personal search procedures as suggested by the June 2000 Independent Panel Report. 
  • Urge legislators to hire outside contract workers to give MANDATORY training (integrity, sensitivity, cultural diversity, EEO/sexual harassment, etc.) as suggested by the June 2000 Independent Panel Report. 
  • Ensure minority female supervisors (front-line/first-line GS-12s) are recruited nationally. 
  • Review new body scanner machines which are showing the private parts of travelers. Make sure only women CBP Officers scan women. 
  • Ensure that the two-hour rule is enforced, giving travelers the right to contact a person of their choosing after they have been escorted into CBP search rooms. 
  • Form an independent panel to delete OUTDATED and illegal records (blacklists) from government computers. 
  • Rehire or compensate all former Customs employees (over 100 whistleblowers and others) that were terminated under the reign of the former Customs Commissioner Raymond Kelly aka "The Hackett Man."Kelly gave orders in a high-level management meeting in headquarters to go after anyone who files an Equal Employment Opportunity ( workplace complaint. Their names were placed on an internal"blacklist" and no matter where they transferred within the agency or to other agencies, this information would follow them throughout their careers. 
Cathy Harris is an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Self-Publishing and Business Coach. She is also the author of 23 non-fiction books, including 4 health books and 2 business books. She provides webinars, seminars and workshops through her speaking and training platforms at and can be reach through her empowerment company, Angels Press, CEO, President, Publisher, P.O. Box 800511, Dallas, TX 75380, Phone: (512) 909-7365, Website: , Email:

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