Top U.S. border law enforcement official to retire

By Leonel Sanchez
November 14, 2003

Rudy Camacho, one of the nation's top customs service officials, is retiring after more than three decades with the federal border law enforcement agency.

Camacho, 52, for the past two years has been the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's southwest border executive director, coordinating efforts among federal, state and local agencies involved in narcotics interdiction. Before that he was head of customs operations for Southern California.

Camacho plans to remain in San Diego and start a consulting firm. He will be honored today with a dinner at Club Coronado at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado.

Camacho is retiring from the customs service while the federal agency is being challenged to tighten border security without interrupting the flow of legitimate traffic.

"Our No. 1 task since Sept. 11 has been anti-terrorism and the interdiction of weapons of mass destruction, but the drug smugglers can't think that we've lowered our guard," he said, referring to recent discoveries of tunnels along the U.S.-Mexico border, including one found near Calexico this week.

Camacho, an Air Force veteran, began his career as a canine enforcement officer and rose through the ranks. In 1999 he was honored with the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award.

His career was nearly tarnished in 1997 when CBS' "60 Minutes" wrongly suggested he was linked to a drug cartel. The program aired an apology after Camacho sued and after a former customs inspector used as a source by the news program admitted he had falsely implicated Camacho in a corruption scheme.

Camacho keeps a framed copy of the CBS letter of apology in his office. He also has a photo of himself and actor Michael Douglas, taken on the set of the Oscar-winning film "Traffic." Camacho portrayed himself in the film, a U.S. Customs chief.

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