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Border inspector in TB case takes early retirement

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. border inspector who ignored a warning to stop a globe-trotting tuberculosis patient from entering the United States has retired, officials said Monday.

Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the officer no longer works at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

The 18-year veteran inspector, whose name has not been disclosed, was under investigation and on administrative leave. The inspector was pilloried last week at a congressional hearing on the case of Andrew Speaker.

Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer, sparked an international scare when health officials tried to find _ and isolate _ him because he was infected with an exceptionally dangerous form of TB that is highly resistant to drugs.

Speaker was on his honeymoon in Italy last month when federal health officials reached him by phone, warned him not to fly commercial aircraft, and urged him to turn himself in to local health officials.

Instead, Speaker and his bride flew to Montreal, rented a car and drove across the U.S. border.

The inspector who greeted them at a crossing station in Champlain, N.Y., received a computer alert to stop Speaker, don a protective mask, and alert health officials, but the Customs and Border Protection employee let the couple pass.

Speaker is now being treated at a Denver hospital.

The head of the CBP, Ralph Basham, refused to defend the officer in congressional testimony. "I've got 12 grandchildren, congressman. I do not know any one of them that would not know what to do in that situation," Basham said.

Colleen Kelley, president of the union that represents CBP employees, said the resignation was effective last Friday. In a statement, Kelley described the officer as a Vietnam veteran who is still eligible for retirement benefits.

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