(CNSNews.com) – In the last seven years, 144 officers and agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been arrested or indicted on corruption charges that include smuggling illegal aliens, smuggling drugs, and bribery, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“In particular, there have been a number of cases in which individuals, known as infiltrators, pursued employment at CBP solely to engage in mission–compromising activity,” the report said, offering two examples.
In 2007, a CBP officer in El Paso, Texas was arrested for conspiracy to import marijuana into the United States from June 2003 through July 2007, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison after conviction. The Office of Field Operation reported “that she may have sought employment with CBP to facilitate drug smuggling.”
A Border Patrol agent station in Comstock, Texas was arrested in 2008 for conspiracy with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. The agent was convicted in 2009, sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $10,000.
“From fiscal years 2005 through 2012, a total of 144 employees were arrested or indicted for corruption related activities, including smuggling aliens or drugs, and 125 have been convicted,” the GAO report says. “About 65 percent (93 of 144) were employees stationed along the southwest border.”
The bulk of corruption cases were for serious offenses, according to the GAO. The report also cited 2,170 cases of what the CPB called “misconduct,” which is illegal behavior outside the workplace, such as domestic violence, driving under the influence or substance abuse. That’s in contrast to 144 cases of “corruption,” which the CPB describes as delinquent behavior affecting the job.
The agency divides corruption into two categories. From 2005 to 2012 there were 103 cases of “mission-compromising corruption” that would include more serious charges of smuggling, bribery and allowing illegal cargo into the United States, versus 41 cases of “non-mission-compromising corruption,” which could range from stealing money from the station site to losing a badge.
Overall, corruptions cases – both mission compromising and non-mission compromising – peaked at 29 in 2009, according to the GAO. The highest rate of mission compromising corruption cases was in 2005 – 23 cases.
After a two-year decline, there were 18 cases of serious corruption in 2008 and 19 cases in 2009. The peak for less serious corruption cases was 10 cases in both 2008 and 2009.
The GAO report was released to the public on Jan. 3, but was prepared in response to a request from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who received the report on Dec. 4.
Starting this month, the Customs and Border Protection are required to polygraph all job applicants, which means a lie detector test, which was part of the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010.
The CBP beat the deadline and implemented this practice last October. Prior to the law, some applicants were polygraphed. The GAO report states that of the 11,149 CBP job applicants who took a lie detector test since 2008, 46 percent failed and 40 percent passed. The remainder were inconclusive.
In addition, the CBP Internal Affairs division (IA) has considered doing random polygraph tests on present officers and agents.
“CBP IA is also considering requiring periodic polygraphs for incumbent officers and agents; however, it has not yet fully assessed the feasibility of expanding the program,” the GAO reported. “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."
"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," said the GAO.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response concurred with most of the GAO’s recommendations but said this would stretch the agency’s resources.
“While DHS agrees these operations can be strengthened, we note these additional duties would adversely impact Personnel Security Division (DSD) and Credibility Assessment Division (CAD) resources if the new requirements are implemented without additional resources to accomplish them,” Jim Crumpacker, the director of the DHS GAO-OIG liaison office, wrote.
“Between August 2006 and December 2008, mandated hiring surges doubles the size of the Border Patrol (BP) from roughly 10,000 Border Patrol Agents (BPAs) to just over 20,000 BPAs, but additional resources were not dedicated to the CBP I’S PSD or CAD,” Crumpacker continued.
“As a result, CAD polygraph and PSD intake and adjudicative resources were significantly impacted," he said. "An additional hiring of 1,000 BPAs and 350 CBP officers during the second half of FY2011 also resulted in further strain.”