Drug Control:

INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee Corruption

GGD-99-31: Published: Mar 30, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 30, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) and the U.S. Customs Service's efforts to address employee corruption on the Southwest Border, focusing on: (1) the extent to which INS and Customs have and comply with policies and procedures for ensuring employee integrity; (2) identifying and comparing the Department of Justice's (DOJ) and Department of the Treasury's organizational structures, policies, and procedures for handling allegations of drug-related employee misconduct and whether the policies and procedures are followed; (3) the types of illegal drug-related activities in which INS and Customs employees on the Southwest Border have been involved; and (4) the extent to which lessons learned from corruption cases closed in fiscal years 1992 through 1997 have led to changes in policies and procedures for preventing the drug-related corruption of INS and Customs employees.

GAO noted that: (1) both INS and Customs have policies and procedures designed to ensure the integrity of their employees; (2) however, neither agency is taking full advantage of its policies, procedures, and the lessons to be learned from closed corruption cases to fully address the increased threat of employee corruption on the Southwest Border; (3) these policies and procedures consist mainly of mandatory background investigations for new staff and 5-year reinvestigations of employees, as well as basic integrity training; (4) while the agencies generally completed background investigations for new hires by the end of their first year on the job, as required, reinvestigations were typically overdue, in some instances, by as many as 3 years; (5) both INS and Customs said the basic training that new employees are to receive includes integrity training; (6) agency records for 284 of 301 randomly selected INS and Customs employees on the Southwest Border showed that they received several hours of integrity training as part of their basic training; (7) DOJ and Treasury have different organizational structures but similar policies and procedures for handling allegations of drug-related misconduct by INS and Customs employees; (8) DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is generally responsible for investigating criminal allegations against INS employees; (9) GAO found that the Justice OIG generally complied with its policies and procedures; (10) at the Treasury, Customs' Office of Internal Affairs is generally responsible for investigating both criminal and noncriminal allegations against Customs employees; (11) GAO could not assess Customs' compliance with its procedures because its automated case management system and case files did not provide the necessary information; (12) some INS and Customs employees on the Southwest Border have engaged in a variety of illegal drug-related activities; (13) INS and Customs have missed opportunities to learn lessons and change their policies and procedures for preventing the drug-related corruption of their employees; (14) the Justice OIG and Customs' Internal Affairs Office are required to formally report internal control weaknesses identified from closed corruption cases, but have not done so; and (15) GAO's review of 28 cases involving INS and Customs employees assigned to the Southwest Border, who were convicted of drug-related crimes in fiscal years 1992-1997, revealed internal control weaknesses that were not formally reported or corrected.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This report had a number of recommendations that were essentially the same, but directed to the Department of Justice for INS employees, and directed to Treasury for Customs employees. Recently, both INS and Customs employees, to whom these recommendations were addressed, were transferred to the Department of Homeland Security. Therefore, GAO is closing what have become duplicative recommendations. GAO will close the duplicative recommendations directed to INS, and leave open the recommendations to Customs.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to evaluate the effectiveness of integrity assurance efforts such as training, background investigations, and reinvestigations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: INS has implemented a plan that provides for timely completion of background investigations and resolving their backlog.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Commissioner of INS to comply with policies that require employment reinvestigations to be completed when they are due.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice has implemented this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to strengthen internal controls at Southwest Border ports of entry and at Border Patrol checkpoints by establishing: (1) one or more methods to deprive drivers of their choice of inspection lanes at ports of entry; (2) a policy for the inspection of law enforcement officers or their vehicles at ports of entry and Border Patrol checkpoints; and (3) a recusal policy concerning the performance of inspections by immigration inspectors and Border Patrol agents where their objectivity may be in question.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Border and Transportation Security

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Commissioner of INS to require Border Patrol agents and immigration inspectors to file financial disclosure statements, including a listing of their assets and liabilities, as part of the background investigation or reinvestigation process, as well as fully review this information to identify financial issues such as employees who appear to be living beyond their means.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Justice OIG to document that policies and procedures were reviewed to identify internal control weaknesses in cases where an INS employee is determined to have engaged in drug-related criminal activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action has been taken.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to develop a procedure to provide information from closed FBI cases, involving INS or Customs employees, to the Justice OIG or Customs Office of Internal Affairs so they can identify and report internal control weaknesses to the responsible agency official. The procedure should only apply in those cases where: (1) the Justice OIG or Customs' Office of Internal Affairs were not involved in the investigation; (2) the subject of the investigation was an INS or Customs employee; and (3) the employee was convicted of a drug-related crime.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Office of Internal Affairs has deployed a variety of proactive methodologies to ensure integrity in the CBP workforce. According to CBP officials, integrity awareness training is conducted for all new CBP employees during the New Employee Orientation Program; all new CBP supervisors during Supervisory and Leadership Training; and to all CBP employees annually through mandatory on-line Integrity Awareness training. Internal Affairs is in the process of conducting a Mission Critical Corruption Case Study to gain an understanding of operational vulnerabilities and how to expand and improve anti-corruption measures. Additionally, Internal Affairs has initiated cross-component outreach to provide all CBP employees with resources and information regarding integrity awareness within the CBP workforce. According to a CBP official, all CBP employees are required to undergo an initial background investigation prior to employment and periodic reinvestigations every five (5) years. According to officials, Internal Affairs employs a comprehensive and robust vetting procedure prior to employment and throughout one's career. Additionally, the workforce is regularly evaluated for potential insider threat vulnerabilities. Finally, through research and analysis, Internal Affairs proactively identifies locations where CBP employees may be most at risk for integrity challenges that may lead to corruption.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Commissioner of Customs to evaluate the effectiveness of integrity assurance efforts, including training, background investigations, and reinvestigations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to an official of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Commissioner of Customs directed an increase in staffing that permits the timely completion of background investigation reviews and periodic reinvestigations. In addition, the conduct of periodic reinvestigations has been outsourced, and the contractors verified, with a statement of work.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should require the Commissioner of Customs to comply with policies that require employment reinvestigations to be completed when they are due.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official, the former U.S. Customs Service (then located within the U.S. Department of the Treasury) implemented a "post corruption analysis" initiative, designed to identify internal control weaknesses exposed during the course of a criminal investigation. Under the initiative, Internal Affairs, in conjunction with the component office to which the subject employee was assigned , was responsible for conducting a comprehensive review of the case to determine if the subject was able to exploit operational policies and procedures (or the lack thereof) to facilitate their criminal activity. The initiative has been enhanced and expanded under CBP. For example, there is now a prohibition against CBP personnel carrying or using privately owned cellular telephones, wireless pagers, or other privately owned electronic devices in primary and secondary inspection areas at all ports of entry, crossings, or functional equivalents.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should require the Commissioner of Customs to document that policies and procedures were reviewed to identify internal control weaknesses, in cases where a Customs employee is determined to have engaged in drug-related criminal activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official noted that the agency has been implementing an automated system called CAOS (Customs Automated Operations System), which injects unpredictability into port of entry operations by rearranging the numbers on the vehicle primary lanes(i.e. 12345 is changed unpredictably to 53412 and inspectors must move with their lane number) and using layered enforcement actions such as block blitzes and sweeps. The application selects which operation to run from a menu that has been input by local management. The time the operation will begin and end can be generated by the application automatically or a supervisor can request an operation to run within selected time parameters. The official also noted that under 19 Code of Federal Regulations 148.84, law enforcement officers are not exempt from inspection. Their vehicles and personal effects are to be examined and cleared according to CBP regulations, policies and procedures. To further strengthen internal controls, Customs Directive 51735-011, "Integrity Involving Family or Close Associates" was implemented on April 19, 1999, and establishes a uniform national policy for conducting CBP official business when family or close associates are involved. The inspections of some law enforcement officers would also be covered by this policy as there are instances of CBP inspectors being close associates of local law enforcement officers, and thus required to recuse themselves from the examination.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Commissioner of Customs to strengthen internal controls at Southwest Border ports of entry by establishing: (1) one or more methods to deprive drivers of their choice of inspection lanes; (2) a policy for inspection of law enforcement officers and their vehicles; and (3) a recusal policy concerning the performance of inspections by Customs inspectors where their objectivity may be in question.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a very thorough review/evaluation is conducted of CBP financial disclosure reports, together with credit checks and personal interviews, to determine if an applicant or employee is living within their means. This process has been implemented for several years. As a result, this recommendation is closed as implemented.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should require that Customs fully review financial disclosure statements, which employees are required to provide as part of the background investigation or reinvestigation process, to identify financial issues such as employees who appear to be living beyond their means.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management

 

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