Corruption persists at Customs and Border Protection

A CBP vehicle patrols the border in Arizona in 2010. A CBP vehicle patrols the border in Arizona in 2010. Matt York/AP file photo

Nearly 150 Customs and Border Protection officers were arrested or indicted for corruption over the last eight years, a new report has found.

A majority of the officers were stationed along the Southwest border, the Government Accountability Office determined. An additional 2,170 were arrested for misconduct in the same time period.

GAO cited CBP’s lack of review and oversight of its employees and monitoring processes as complicit in allowing corruption to fester within the agency. Incidents of corruption included fraud, harboring aliens, selling immigration documents and allowing loads of narcotics through a port or checkpoint.

Of the 144 corruption incidents, 103 -- more than 70 percent -- were considered “mission-compromising.” CBP even reported some instances of “infiltrators” seeking and gaining employment at the agency for the sole purpose of engaging in mission-compromising activity. For example, an officer stationed in El Paso, Texas, was arrested in 2007 for conspiring to import 5,000 pounds of marijuana each month into the United States.

Less than 1 percent of arrests for misconduct, however, were related to CBP’s mission.

GAO recommended CBP -- part of the Homeland Security Department -- better track which pre-employment screens assist in identifying unacceptable job applicants. CBP currently conducts background investigations and polygraph examinations for potential hires, but does not monitor which tactics are the most effective. GAO also suggested CBP assess the feasibility of expanding the polygraph program to include occasional tests for current employees.

Additionally, the auditors said the agency should improve the quality assurance of its screenings and set a timetable to complete a comprehensive employee-integrity strategy.

CBP concurred with all of GAO’s recommendations, saying while an overwhelming majority of its employees are honest and hardworking, there is little room for error.

“Any act of employee corruption interferes with the agency’s mission to secure the nation’s borders against all threats and facilitate legitimate travel and trade,” Jim Crumpacker, DHS’ chief liaison to GAO, wrote in a letter to the auditors.

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