Tuesday, January 8, 2013



Note: That still a lot.

Less Than 1 Percent Of CBP's Workforce Arrested For Corruption,
Congressional Audit Finds
By: Anthony Kimery
01/04/2013 ( 8:00am)

Although US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) remains concerned
about the negative impact that corruption cases involving CBP agents
have on agency-wide integrity, a new report by the Government
Accountability Office (GAO) found that corruption-related arrests of
CBP employees accounted for less than 1 percent of the entire CBP
workforce during the last eight years.

"The majority of arrests of CBP employees were related to
misconduct," according to the GAO audit report, which had been
requested by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs and released last month.

The 48-page audit report, Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen CBP
Efforts to Mitigate Risk of Employee Corruption and Misconduct,
disclosed "there were 2,170 reported incidents of arrests for acts of
misconduct such as domestic violence or driving under the influence
from fiscal year 2005 through fiscal year 2012, and a total of 144
current or former CBP employees were arrested or indicted for
corruption-related activities, such as the smuggling of aliens and
drugs." As of October 2012, 125 had been convicted.

CBP currently uses various screening tools, such as background
investigations and polygraph examinations for applicants, as well as
random drug tests and periodic reinvestigations of existing
employees, to determine suitability for hire and continued
employment. However, the GAO report also found that CBP, one of the
largest component agencies within the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS), did not have a mechanism in place to maintain and track data
on which of its screening tools provided the information that led to
either rejections of new hires or arrests of incumbent employees for

To become a CBP or Border Patrol employee, applicants must
successfully complete all steps of the CBP hiring process, which
includes an online application, cognitive exam, fingerprint
collection, financial disclosure, structured interview, fitness
tests, medical examinations, polygraph examination, background
investigation and drug test. CBP Internal Affairs manages the
personnel security program by initiating and adjudicating
preemployment investigations for CBP applicants to ensure that the
candidates are reliable, trustworthy and loyal to the United States,
and therefore suitable for employment.

What is of particular concern to CBP, GAO's audit report said, is
"the majority of allegations against CBP employees since fiscal year
2006 occurred at locations along the southwest border," and that "CBP
officials have stated that they are concerned about the negative
impact that these cases have on agency wide integrity."

For the purposes of GAO's audit report, integrity issues include acts
of corruption such as accepting cash bribes and other gratuities in
return for allowing contraband or inadmissible aliens into the
country, as well as other criminal activities or misconduct such as
drug or alcohol abuse.

In its cover letter to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), ranking member of
the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs'
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and Sen. Michael T. McCaul
(R-Texas), chairman of the committee's Subcommittee on Oversight,
Investigations and Management, GAO emphasized that "Drug-trafficking
and other transnational criminal organizations have increasingly
sought to target US law enforcement personnel with bribes and other
inducements to facilitate their illicit transport of drugs, aliens
and other contraband across the US southwest border."

GAO pointed out that from fiscal years 2006 through 2011, the number
of CBP officers (CBPOs) and Border Patrol Agents (BPAs) along the
southwest border increased from 15,792 to 24,057, and that DHS
"officials have testified that CBP's increased hiring of officers and
agents" since FY 2006 "has amplified the incentives and opportunities
for attempted corruption of the CBP workforce through bribery,
infiltration or other means."

GAO said "DHS officials have stated that drug-trafficking
organizations are attempting to infiltrate the CBP workforce through
conspired hiring operations and aggressive targeting of incumbent
CBPOs and BPAs."

From FY 2005 through FY 2012, only 144 current or former CBP
employees were arrested or indicted for corruption, but "the majority
… were stationed along the southwest border," GAO reported. There
were 2,170 reported incidents of arrests for misconduct during the
same period.

Out of these 144 cases, 103 were for actual "mission-compromising
corruption activities, which are the most severe offenses, such as
drug or alien smuggling, bribery and allowing illegal cargo into the
United States," GAO said. Forty-one of the 144 CBP employees who were
arrested or indicted were charged with other corruption-related
activities," which according to CBP Internal Affairs is a category
that is "less severe than mission-compromising corruption and
includes offenses such as the theft of government property and
querying personal associates in a government database for purposes
other than official business."

"Allegations against CBPOs and BPAs as a percentage of total on-board
personnel remained relatively constant from fiscal years 2006 through
2011, and ranged from serious offenses such as facilitating drug
smuggling across the border, to administrative delinquencies such as
losing an official badge," GAO found.

Despite the perception that's been pushed by CBP's ardent critics
that it's rife with narco-cartel related corruption -- especially
along the Southwest border -- the reality is far different, GAO
determined. In FY 2005, out of 42,409 CBP employees, only 27 were
arrested or indicted for mission-compromising corruption. During this
same time period, there were 190 reported incidents of arrests for
misconduct. As of August, 2012, when CBP's workforce increased to
more than 60,000, only 11 CBP employees were arrested or indicted for
mission-compromising related corruption, and 336 reported incidents
of arrests for misconduct.

The majority of the incidents of arrests for misconduct since FY 2005
were for wrongdoing like domestic violence and driving under the
influence while off duty.

During interviews with Border Patrol officials on the Southwest
border in November 2008, Salvador Zamora, then El Paso Border Patrol
Station Assistant Special Agent in Charge, now Patrol Agent in Charge
of the Calexico Border Patrol Station, expressed to Homeland Security
Today the agency's concerns about the "ever present" threat posed by
Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) trying to bribe
or otherwise corrupt and compromise Border Patrol agents.

Zamora said "it is something that we have to be conscious of and
vigilant in watching for." He said Border Patrol has an effective
process for ferreting out applicants who may be trying to become
Border Patrol agents for the purpose of aiding drug traffickers or
human smugglers.

"We have methods that are very effective" in rooting out would-be
infiltrators, he said, adding, "we are constantly employing
techniques that I can't talk about" to ensure that potentially
compromised agents are identified.

CBP and US Border Patrol officials are especially concerned about
"infiltrators" – individuals who pursue "employment at CBP solely to
engage in mission-compromising activity."

And there have been a number of cases in which the department has
identified such persons.

"For example," GAO reported, "in 2007, a CBPO in El Paso, Texas was
arrested at her duty station at the Paso Del Norte Bridge for
conspiracy to import marijuana into the United States from June 2003
to July 2007." The woman was later convicted and sentenced to 20
years in prison.

The "Office of Field Operations reported that she may have sought
employment with CBP to facilitate drug smuggling," GAO said, noting
that "CBP officials view this case as an example of the potential
impact of corruption -- if the officer had succeeded in facilitating
the importation of 5,000 pounds of marijuana per month, this would
amount to a total of 240,000 pounds over four years with a retail
value of $288 million dollars."

GAO said "CBP employs screening tools" like polygraphs and background
checks "to mitigate the risk of employee corruption and misconduct
for … applicants and" random drug tests and periodic reinvestigations
for "incumbent CBP officers and Border Patrol agents. However, CBP's
Office of Internal Affairs does not have a mechanism to maintain and
track data on which of its screening tools provided the information
used to determine which applicants were not suitable for hire."

Congress' investigative branch stated "Maintaining and tracking such
data is consistent with internal control standards and could better
position CBP Internal Affairs to gauge the relative effectiveness of
its screening tools."

CBP Internal Affairs "is also considering requiring periodic
polygraphs for incumbent officers and agents; however, it has not yet
fully assessed the feasibility of expanding the program," GAO's audit
found, adding, "For example, CBP has not yet fully assessed the costs
of implementing polygraph examinations on incumbent officers and
agents, including costs for additional supervisors and adjudicators,
or factors such as the trade-offs associated with testing incumbent
officers and agents at various frequencies."

GAO said "A feasibility assessment of program expansion could better
position CBP to determine whether and how to best achieve its goal of
strengthening integrity-related controls for officers and agents."

Further, CBP Internal Affairs "has not consistently conducted monthly
quality assurance reviews of its adjudications since 2008, as
required by internal policies, to help ensure that adjudicators are
following procedures in evaluating the results of the preemployment
and periodic background investigations."

CBP Internal Affairs officials told GAO's auditors "that they have
performed some of the required checks since 2008, but they could not
provide data on how many checks were conducted." And "Without these
quality assurance checks," GAO reported, "it is difficult for CBP IA
to determine the extent to which deficiencies, if any, exist in the
adjudication process."

CBP also does not have an integrity strategy as called for in its
Fiscal Year 2009-2014 Strategic Plan, GAO disclosed, adding, "During
the course of our review, CBP IA began drafting a strategy, but CBP
IA's Assistant Commissioner stated the agency has not set target
timelines for completing and implementing this strategy. Moreover, he
stated that there has been significant cultural resistance among some
CBP components in acknowledging CBP IA's authority for overseeing all
integrity-related activities."

"Setting target timelines is consistent with program management
standards and could help CBP monitor progress made toward the
development and implementation of an agency wide strategy," GAO told
lawmakers in its audit report.

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