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entitled 'Border Security: Continued Weaknesses in Screening Entrants 
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Testimony: 

Before the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 10:00 a.m. EDT: 

Wednesday, August 2, 2006: 

Border Security: 

Continued Weaknesses in Screening Entrants into the United States: 

Statement of Gregory D. Kutz, Managing Director Forensic Audits and 
Special Investigations: 

GAO-06-976T: 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: 

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss our 
investigation of the effectiveness of U.S. Customs and Border 
Protection (CBP) in screening entrants into the United States at land 
border crossings. Currently, U.S. citizens are not required to present 
a passport when entering the United States from countries in the 
Western Hemisphere.[Footnote 1] However, U.S. citizens are required to 
establish citizenship to a CBP officer's satisfaction.[Footnote 2] On 
its Web site, CBP advises U.S. citizens that an officer may ask for 
identification documents as proof of citizenship, including birth 
certificates or baptismal records and a photo identification 
document.[Footnote 3] 

In 2003, we testified that CBP officers were not readily capable of 
identifying whether individuals seeking entry into the United States 
were using counterfeit identification to prove citizenship. 
Specifically, our agents were able to easily enter the United States 
from Canada and Mexico using fictitious names and counterfeit driver's 
licenses and birth certificates.[Footnote 4] Later in 2003 and 2004, we 
continued to be able to successfully enter the United States using 
counterfeit identification at land border crossings, but were denied 
entry on one occasion. 

Specifically, agents entered the United States using counterfeit 
driver's licenses at two land crossings in Washington, one in New York, 
one in California, and one in Texas. One agent was also able to enter 
the United States through both the California and Texas border 
crossings using an expired, altered U.S diplomatic passport. At no time 
did CBP officers question the authenticity of any of these agents' 
identification. Furthermore, at one of the Washington crossings, agents 
were able to walk across the border without passing through any 
security checkpoints and without presenting identification. However, at 
the New York crossing, one agent was not allowed entry into the United 
States after presenting as identification an expired, altered U.S. 
tourist passport and a counterfeit driver's license. CBP officers 
detained this agent for further screening until he identified himself 
as a GAO employee conducting undercover tests. [Footnote 5] 

Because of your concerns that these weaknesses could possibly be 
exploited by terrorists or others involved in criminal activity, you 
requested that we assess the current status of security at the nation's 
borders. Specifically, you requested that we conduct a follow-up 
investigation to determine whether the vulnerabilities exposed in our 
prior work continue to exist. 

To perform our 2006 follow-up investigation, we created a fictitious 
driver's license and birth certificate with the same name that we used 
in the tests conducted for the work we did in 2003. We also created 
another fictitious license and birth certificate. To create all these 
documents, we used commercial software that is available to the public. 
As agreed with your offices, we chose to test a nonrepresentative 
selection of nine land crossings at both the northern and southern 
borders, including one in California, one in Texas, two in Arizona, one 
in Michigan, two in New York, one in Idaho, and one in Washington. We 
conducted our work from February 2006 through June 2006 in accordance 
with the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency Quality 
Standards for Investigations. 

Summary: 

Agents successfully entered the United States using fictitious driver's 
licenses and other bogus documentation through nine land ports of entry 
on the northern and southern borders. CBP officers never questioned the 
authenticity of the counterfeit documents presented at any of the nine 
crossings. On three occasions--in California, Texas, and Arizona-- 
agents crossed the border on foot. At two of these locations--Texas and 
Arizona--CBP allowed the agents entry into the United States without 
asking for or inspecting any identification documents. 

After completing our investigation, we briefed officials from CBP on 
June 9, 2006. CBP agreed that its officers are not able to identify all 
forms of counterfeit identification presented at land border crossings 
and fully supports a new initiative that will require all travelers to 
present a passport before entering the United States. We did not assess 
whether this initiative would be effective in preventing terrorists 
from entering the United States or whether it would fully address the 
vulnerabilites shown by our work. 

Southern Border Crossings: 

The following information provides details about our agents' 
experiences and observations entering the United States from Mexico at 
border crossings in California and Texas and at two crossings in 
Arizona. 

California: On February 9, 2006, two agents entered California from 
Mexico on foot. One of the agents presented as identification a 
counterfeit West Virginia driver's license and the other presented a 
counterfeit Virginia driver's license. The CBP officers on duty asked 
both agents if they were U.S. citizens and both responded that they 
were. The officers also asked the agents if they were bringing anything 
into the United States from Mexico and both answered that they were 
not. The CBP officers did not request any other documents to prove 
citizenship, and allowed both agents to enter the United States. 

Texas: On February 23, 2006, two agents crossed the border from Mexico 
into Texas on foot. When the first agent arrived at the checkpoint, a 
CBP officer asked him for his citizenship information; the agent 
responded that he was from the United States. The officer also asked if 
the agent had brought back anything from Mexico. The agent responded 
that he had not, and the officer told him that he could enter the 
Unites States. At this point, the agent asked the CBP officer if he 
wished to see any identification. The officer replied "OK, that would 
be good." The agent began to remove his counterfeit Virginia driver's 
license from his wallet and the inspector said "That's fine, you can 
go." The CBP officer never looked at the driver's license. 

When the second agent reached the checkpoint, another CBP officer asked 
him for his citizenship information and he responded that he was from 
the United States. The CBP officer asked the agent if he had purchased 
anything in Mexico and the agent replied that he had not. He was then 
asked to show some form of identification and he produced a counterfeit 
West Virginia driver's license. The CBP inspector briefly looked at the 
driver's license and then told the agent he could enter the United 
States. 

Arizona, first crossing: On March 14, 2006, two agents arrived at the 
border crossing between Mexico and Arizona in a rental vehicle. Upon 
request, the agents gave the CBP officer a counterfeit West Virginia 
driver's license and counterfeit Virginia driver's license as 
identification. As the CBP officer reviewed the licenses, he asked the 
agents if they were U.S. citizens and they responded that they were. 
The officer also asked if the agents had purchased anything in Mexico 
and they said they had not. The CBP officer then requested that agents 
open the trunk of their vehicle. The agents heard the inspector tap on 
several parts of the side of the vehicle first with his hand and again 
with what appeared to be a wand. The officer closed the trunk of the 
vehicle, returned the agents' driver's licenses, and allowed them to 
enter the United States. 

Arizona, second crossing: On March 15, 2006, two agents again entered 
Arizona from Mexico on foot at a different location than the previous 
day. One of the agents carried a counterfeit West Virginia driver's 
license and a counterfeit West Virginia birth certificate. The other 
carried a counterfeit Virginia driver's license and a counterfeit New 
York birth certificate. As the agents were about to cross the border, 
another agent who had crossed the border earlier using his genuine 
identification phoned to inform them that the CBP officer on duty had 
swiped his Virginia driver's license through a scanner. Because the 
counterfeit driver's licenses the agents were carrying had fake 
magnetic strips, the agents decided that in the event they were 
questioned about their licenses, they would tell the CBP officers that 
the strips had become demagnetized. 

When the agents entered the checkpoint area, they saw that they were 
the only people crossing the border at that time. The agents observed 
three CBP officers on duty; one was manning the checkpoint and the 
other two were standing a short distance away. The officer manning the 
checkpoint was sitting at a cubicle with a computer and what appeared 
to be a card scanner. The agents engaged this officer in conversation 
to distract him from scanning their driver's licenses. After a few 
moments, the CBP officer asked the agents if they were both U.S. 
citizens and they said that they were. He then asked if they had 
purchased anything in Mexico and they said no. He then told them to 
have a nice day and allowed them to enter the United States. He never 
asked for any form of identification. 

Northern Border Crossings: 

The following information provides details about our agents' 
experiences and observations entering the United States from Canada at 
Michigan, New York, Idaho, and Washington border crossings. 

Michigan: On May 1, 2006, two agents drove in a rental vehicle to a 
border crossing in Michigan. When asked for identification by the CBP 
officer on duty, the agents presented a counterfeit West Virginia 
driver's license and a counterfeit Virginia driver's license. As the 
CBP officer examined the licenses, he asked the agents if they were 
U.S. citizens and they responded that they were. The CBP officer then 
asked if the agents had birth certificates. One agent presented a 
counterfeit New York birth certificate and the other presented a 
counterfeit West Virginia birth certificate. The agents observed that 
the CBP officer checked the birth certificates against the driver's 
licenses to see if the dates and names matched. The CBP officer then 
asked the agents if they had purchased anything in Canada and they 
responded that they had not. The officer also asked what the agents 
were doing in Canada and they responded that they had been visiting a 
casino in Canada. The CBP officer then returned the agents' 
documentation and allowed them to enter the United States. 

New York, first crossing: On May 3, 2006, two agents entered New York 
in a rental vehicle from Canada. The agents handed the CBP officer on 
duty counterfeit driver's licenses from West Virginia and Virginia. The 
CBP officer asked for the agents' country of citizenship and the agents 
responded that they were from the United States. The CBP officer also 
asked the agents why they had visited Canada. The agents responded that 
they had been gambling in the casinos. The CBP officer told the agents 
to have a nice day and allowed them to enter the United States. 

New York, second crossing: On the same date, the same two agents 
crossed back into Canada and re-entered New York at a different 
location. The agents handed the CBP officer at the checkpoint the same 
two counterfeit driver's licenses from West Virginia and Virginia. The 
officer asked the agents what they were doing in Canada and they 
replied that they been gambling at a casino. The officer then asked the 
agents how much money they were bringing back into the country and they 
told him they had approximately $325, combined. The officer next asked 
the agent driving the car to step out of the vehicle and open the 
trunk. As the agent complied, he noticed that the officer placed the 
two driver's licenses on the counter in his booth. The officer asked 
the agent whose car they were driving and the agent told him that it 
was a rental. A second officer then asked the agent to stand away from 
the vehicle and take his hands out of his pockets. The first officer 
inspected the trunk of the vehicle, which was empty. At this point, the 
officer handed back the two driver's licenses and told the agents to 
proceed into the United States. 

Idaho: On May 23, 2006, two agents drove in a rental vehicle to a 
border crossing in Idaho. The agents handed the CBP officer on duty a 
counterfeit West Virginia driver's license and a counterfeit Virginia 
driver's license. As the CBP officer examined the licenses, he asked 
the agents if they were U.S. citizens and they responded that they 
were. The CBP officer then asked if the agents had birth certificates. 
One agent presented a counterfeit New York birth certificate and the 
other presented a counterfeit West Virginia birth certificate. The 
agents observed that the CBP officer checked the birth certificates 
against the driver's licenses to see if the dates and names matched. 
The officer also asked what the agents were doing in Canada and they 
responded that they had been sightseeing. The CBP officer then returned 
the agents' documentation and allowed them to enter the United States. 

Washington: On May 24, 2006, two agents drove in a rental vehicle to a 
border crossing checkpoint in Washington. When the agents arrived at 
the border, they noticed that no one was at the checkpoint booth at the 
side of the road. Shortly thereafter, a CBP officer emerged from a 
building near the checkpoint booth and asked the agents to state their 
nationality. The agents responded that they were Americans. The CBP 
officer next asked the agents where they were born, and they responded 
New York and West Virginia. The agents then handed the CBP officers 
their counterfeit West Virginia and Virginia driver's licenses. The 
officer looked at the licenses briefly and asked the agents why they 
had visited Canada. The agents responded that they had a day off from a 
conference that they were attending in Washington and decided to do 
some sightseeing. The CBP officer returned the agents' identification 
and allowed them to enter the United States. 

Corrective Action Briefing: 

We conducted a corrective action briefing with officials from CBP on 
June 9, 2006, about the results of our investigation. CBP agreed its 
officers are not able to identify all forms of counterfeit 
identification presented at land border crossings. CBP officials also 
stated that they fully support the newly promulgated Western Hemisphere 
Travel Initiative,[Footnote 6] which will require all travelers, 
including U.S. citizens, within the Western Hemisphere to have a 
passport or other secure identification deemed sufficient by the 
Secretary of Homeland Security[Footnote 7] to enter or reenter the 
United States. The current timeline proposes that the new requirements 
will apply to all land border crossings beginning on December 31, 2007. 
The proposed timeline was developed pursuant to the Intelligence Reform 
and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The act requires the Secretary of 
Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to 
implement a plan no later than January 1, 2008, to strengthen the 
border screening process through the use of passports and other secure 
documentation in recognition of the fact that additional safeguards are 
needed to ensure that terrorists cannot enter the United 
States.[Footnote 8] However, the Senate recently passed a bill to 
extend the implementation deadline from January 1, 2008, to June 1, 
2009. Additionally, the Senate bill would also authorize the Secretary 
of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, to 
develop a travel document known as a Passport Card to facilitate travel 
of U.S. citizens to Canada, Mexico, the countries located in the 
Caribbean, and Bermuda.[Footnote 9] We did not assess whether this 
initiative would be fully implemented by either the January 2008 or 
June 2009 deadline or whether it would be effective in preventing 
terrorists from entering the United States. 

Conclusion: 

The results of our current work indicate that (1) CBP officers at the 
nine land border crossings tested did not detect the counterfeit 
identification we used and (2) people who enter the United States via 
land crossings are not always asked to present identification. 
Furthermore, our periodic tests since 2002 clearly show that CBP 
officers are unable to effectively identify counterfeit driver's 
licenses, birth certificates, and other documents. This vulnerability 
potentially allows terrorists or others involved in criminal activity 
to pass freely into the United States from Canada or Mexico with little 
or no chance of being detected. It will be critical that the new 
initiative requiring travelers within the Western Hemisphere to present 
passports or other accepted documents to enter the United States 
address the vulnerabilities shown by our work. 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, this concludes my statement. 
I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have at this 
time. 

Contact: 

For further information about this testimony, please contact Gregory D. 
Kutz at (202) 512-7455 or kutzg@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices 
of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this testimony. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] 22 C.F.R.  53.2(b). 

[2] 8 C.F.R.  235.1(b). 

[3] See [Hyperlink, 
http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/documentary_requirements.xml]
. 

[4] We also testified in 2003 that agents successfully entered Florida 
from Jamaica via air. GAO, Weaknesses in Screening Entrants into the 
United States, GAO-03-438T (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 30, 2003). 

[5] As part of this investigation, agents also attempted to enter the 
Unites States via air. Agents successfully entered the United States 
from the Bahamas using counterfeit driver's licenses and birth 
certificates. However, agents were not successful when attempting to 
enter the United States from Jamaica; CBP officers detained four agents 
in Florida until they identified themselves as GAO employees conducting 
tests. 

[6] See Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, 70 Fed Reg. 52037. 

[7] Although a passport will be the preferred form of identification 
for entry into the United States, the Department of State and CBP 
anticipate that other acceptable forms of identification will be the 
Border Crossing Card (BCC or laser visa), the Customs and Border 
Protection Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection 
(SENTRI), NEXUS, and Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program cards. BCC 
cards have a photo and machine-readable biometric information; SENTRI 
cards are used for the automated commuter lanes at the United States/ 
Mexico border crossings; NEXUS cards are issued to low-risk travelers 
for travel between Canada and the United States; and FAST cards are 
used by low-risk truck drivers, carriers, and importers at the United 
States/Canada border crossings. 

[8] Pub. L. No. 108-458,  7209, 118 Stat. 3638, 3823 (2004). 

[9] Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, S. 2611, 109th Cong. 
135. 

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