Lawmakers Probe Reports of Sexual Assault, ‘Rape Tables’ in CBP Hazing

Roman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock.com

Lawmakers are attempting to get to the bottom of reported sexual abuse and “violent hazing” at a Customs and Border Protection outpost, responding to whistleblowers who recently came forward to a local news station.

The accusations primarily concern activities at the Newark Liberty International Airport and reportedly involved forcible sexual contact and restraining employees on tables. Six members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (three from each party) called the allegations “deeply disturbing” in a letter to CBP acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, while Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee, in a letter of their own, criticized CBP leadership for not acting more quickly.

One employee reported hazing that involved being duct taped to what was known as a “rape table,” with colleagues mounting the individual and “pretty much riding me like a horse.” Another employee said an officer pulled his gun on the employee, while a third whistleblower was allegedly chased and forcibly taped to a chair. Employees said the activities have been going on for years but were mostly not reported because, according to the alleged victims, the supervisors they would have complained to were “best friends" with those they said were carrying out the acts. When one employee did report the incidents, leadership removed the so-called “rape table” but took no other action.  

NBC New York’s I Team first reported the alleged assault. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is currently investigating the incidents.

“Such serious allegations put forth by federal officers about their fellow employees are deeply disturbing,” said the oversight committee members, including Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Elijah Cummings, the panel’s respective chairman and ranking member. The lawmakers requested a slew of information related to the report, including when CBP first became aware of the situation, full details of its investigation into the incidents and any personnel actions taken as a result. They also requested the personnel records of any employees accused of engaging in the behavior.

In their letter, the homeland security panel’s Democrats said there was “no place for this type of conduct” at CBP or DHS. 

“We are deeply concerned that CBP leadership in Newark did not have procedures in place to discover and appropriately respond to this behavior sooner and that CBP headquarters is apparently not properly overseeing field offices and ports of entry to prevent this conduct from occurring.”

The lawmakers expressed concern the behavior may be occurring at other locations, and asked McAleenan if CBP had any information to suggest that might be the case. They also requested information on what measures CBP has taken and is planning to take to prevent the incidents from occurring at Newark and other locations.

CBP told NBC New York it did not “tolerate corruption or abuse” within its ranks, and promised to “cooperate fully with all criminal or administrative investigations.” 

Image via Roman Tiraspolsky/Shutterstock.com.

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