Washington (CNSNews.com) – Largely because of the spreading influence of Mexican drug cartels and illegal alien smugglers, 127 agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been arrested, charged, or convicted of corruption, including drug smuggling, since 2004.
Testifying on Thursday before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs, Alan Bersin, commissioner of the CBP, said: “Since 2004 in October, 127 CBP personnel have been arrested, charged or convicted of corruption. This breach of trust is something that we do not stand for, and while seven years and tens of thousands employees have been besmirched by this, these evidences of corruption, we take each and every one of them seriously.”
In his prepared testimony, Bersin said 127 employees were involved in “acts of corruption, including drug smuggling, alien smuggling, money laundering, and conspiracy.”
“Of the 127 arrests, 95 are considered mission compromising acts of corruption,” he said. “This means that the employee’s illegal activities were for personal gain and violated, or facilitated the violation of, the laws CBP personnel are charged with enforcing.” The CBP is a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Bersin said overall the CBP employs about 60,000 people, 40,000 of which work at the U.S. borders.
“Apart from the 95 cases identified above, the remaining 32 arrests are considered non-mission compromising acts of corruption in which the employee’s illegal activities involved the misuse or abuse of the knowledge, access, or authority granted by virtue of their official position in a manner that did not facilitate the violation of laws that the agency is charged with enforcing at the border,” said Bersin. “These cases fall into one of five broad categories: Theft; Fraud; Misuse of a Government Computer/Database; False Statements; and Drug-Related Offenses.”
Furthermore, Charles Edwards, the acting Inspector General for DHS, testified that Mexican drug cartels have turned “to corrupting DHS employees,” adding that “Border corruption impacts national security.”
“A corrupt DHS employee may accept a bribe for allowing what appear to be undocumented aliens into the U.S. while unwittingly helping terrorists enter the country,” said Edwards. “Likewise, what seems to be drug contraband could be weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical or biological weapons.”
In his prepared testimony, Edwards added that his office has 267 active corruption-related investigations of CBP employees underway.
He stated that his office breaks down the CBP staff-related investigations into four categories: corruption, civil rights/civil liberties, suspicious activity, and other.
Edwards pointed out in his prepared remarks that for the most part both complaints received and investigations initiated by the Inspector General about CBP agents constitute non-corruption related allegations.
Nevertheless, his office “has seen a 38 percent increase in overall complaints against CBP employees since Fiscal Year 2004,” he said.
Since fiscal year 2004, CBP-related investigations by Edwards’ office have yielded over 489 arrests of which 160 have been CBP employees.
“The remaining arrests were of individuals who have either conspired with employees or were otherwise associated with the criminal activity DHS OIG investigated,” added Edwards.
He noted that government reports have revealed that Mexican drug-trafficking organizations, such as Los Zetas, “are becoming involved increasingly in systematic corruption to further alien and drug smuggling, including smuggling of aliens from designated special interest countries likely to export terrorism.”
“The obvious targets of corruption are Border Patrol agents [a component of CBP] and CBP officers,” said Edwards. “Less obvious are those employees who can provide access to sensitive law enforcement and intelligence information, allowing the cartels to track investigative activity or vet their members against law enforcement databases.”
Border corruption comes in many forms, he testified, including “cash bribes, sexual favors, and gratuities in return for allowing contraband or undocumented aliens through primary inspection lanes or even protecting and escorting border crossings; leaking sensitive law enforcement information to persons under investigation and selling law enforcement intelligence to smugglers; and providing needed documents such as immigration papers.”
“I cannot overemphasize that the overwhelming majority of CBP officers and agents demonstrate the highest levels of integrity every day,” stated Bersin in his prepared remarks, “but the reality is that CBP employees have been and will continue to be targeted by criminal organizations or may otherwise seek to exploit their position of public trust for illicit gain and I am here today to discuss this vulnerability, and the steps that we are taking with your assistance to mitigate the threat it embodies.”