Analyst: 300 Border Agents in Corruption Probe

Monday, 07 Jul 2014 11:07 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Hundreds of customs and immigration agents are being investigated for corruption near the border, according to The Washington Times, citing estimates from an analysis of Immigration and Customs Enforcement records.

The data was taken from redacted reports from the agency obtained though the Freedom of Information Act, which showed that at least six federal immigration agents are being probed for illegally snooping on law enforcement databases.

The information also revealed that one Customs and Border Protection officer is being investigated for possible links to a "drug-trafficking organization that has utilized compromised law-enforcement officers in the past," the Times reported.

Vote Now: Do you believe the Obama administration has secured our border with Mexico? Vote Now

Border analyst James Phelps, a professor at Angelo State University in Texas who reviewed the data, estimated that as many as 300 border officers are under investigation for corruption.

Phelps said that having a corrupted official with access to law enforcement databases creates more opportunities for drug cartels or human traffickers to pay off other officers.

"How do you corrupt someone like that? It’s real easy," he told the newspaper. "You offer them more money in a weekend than they make in an entire year. If you can get a hold of a person’s driver’s license, you can find out everything — the works.

"If the cartels can identify an agent by name and find out where they live, they can come and make an offer. Take our money and turn a blind eye, or we kill your mom. Down in Mexico, the cartels have no problem doing that, and that’s where you have a lot of agents fail."

While declining to discuss specific cases in the records, ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said: "ICE agents and officers are held to the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct. The agency does not tolerate misconduct, and reports of any such actions are swiftly investigated and dealt with appropriately."

The Times said Customs and Border Protection officials didn't respond to messages seeking comment.

Computer misuse at ICE and CBP "largely stemmed from improper access to electronic law-enforcement records," according to the Times.

There was one instance in which investigators were informed about an official using his or her position to "conduct queries for friends and relatives engaged in criminal activity."

The same report included a "substantiated" FBI special agent’s accusation that a credible witness was accessing "sensitive law enforcement information in order to warn friends and relatives of impending law enforcement activity."

Although the redacted material in the report obscured the scope of corruption on the border, the violations included "improper entry by alien" and "bringing in or harboring certain aliens," as well as fraud.

Citing an audit by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general last year, the Times said that corrupt employees accessing databases and IT systems can facilitate the flow of drugs across the border and even disclose gate codes so drugs can be smuggled into the United States.

Vote Now: Do you believe the Obama administration has secured our border with Mexico? Vote Now

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