oversight

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

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-04-21.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics
                          Control



For Release on Delivery
Expected at
2:00 p.m., EDT
                          DRUG CONTROL
on Wednesday
April 21, 1999

                          INS and Customs Can Do
                          More To Prevent Drug-
                          Related Employee
                          Corruption
                          Statement of Richard M. Stana, Associate Director
                          Administration of Justice Issues
                          General Government Division




GAO/T-GGD-99-86
Summary

Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More
To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
Corruption
              Some Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and U.S. Customs
              Service employees on the Southwest Border have engaged in a variety of
              illegal drug-related activities, including waving drug loads through ports of
              entry, coordinating the movement of drugs across the Southwest Border,
              transporting drugs past Border Patrol checkpoints, selling drugs, and
              disclosing drug intelligence information.

              Both INS and Customs have policies and procedures designed to help
              ensure the integrity of their employees. 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. 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. While the agencies generally completed required
              background investigations for new hires by the end of their first year on
              the job, reinvestigations were typically overdue, in some instances, by as
              many as 3 years. Both INS and Customs provided integrity training to new
              employees during basic training, but advanced integrity training was not
              required.

              The Departments of Justice and the Treasury have different organizational
              structures but similar policies and procedures for handling allegations of
              drug-related misconduct by INS and Customs employees. At Justice, the
              Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is generally responsible for
              investigating criminal allegations against INS employees. GAO found that
              the Justice OIG generally complied with its policies and procedures for
              handling allegations of drug-related misconduct. At the Treasury, Customs’
              Office of Internal Affairs is generally responsible for investigating both
              criminal and noncriminal allegations against Customs employees.
              Customs’ automated case management system and its investigative case
              files did not provide the necessary information to assess compliance with
              investigative procedures.

              INS and Customs have missed opportunities to learn lessons and change
              their policies and procedures for preventing the drug-related corruption of
              their employees. The Justice OIG and Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs
              are required to formally report internal control weaknesses identified from
              closed corruption cases, but have not done so. 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 through
              1997, revealed internal control weaknesses that were not formally reported
              and/or corrected. These weaknesses included instances where (1) drug



              Page 1                                                        GAO/T-GGD-99-86
Summary
Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee Corruption




smugglers chose the inspection lane at a port of entry, (2) INS and
Customs employees did not recuse themselves from inspecting individuals
with whom they had close personal relationships, and (3) law enforcement
personnel were allowed to cross the Southwest Border or pass Border
Patrol checkpoints without inspection. Also, INS and Customs had not
formally evaluated their integrity procedures to determine their
effectiveness. GAO made recommendations in response to these
weaknesses.




Page 2                                                              GAO/T-GGD-99-86
Statement

Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More
To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
Corruption
               Mr. Chairman and Members of the Caucus:

               I am pleased to be here today to discuss the serious and continuing threat
               of corruption to Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and U.S.
               Customs Service employees along the Southwest Border by persons
               involved in the illegal drug trade. The enormous sums of money being
               generated by drug trafficking have increased the threat for bribery. It is a
               challenge that INS, Customs, and other law enforcement agencies must
               overcome at the border.

               My testimony focuses on (1) the extent to which INS and Customs have
               and comply with policies and procedures for ensuring employee integrity;
               (2) an identification and comparison of the Departments of Justice’s and
               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) an identification of the types of
               illegal drug-related activities in which INS and Customs employees on the
                                                          1
               Southwest Border have been convicted; 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.
                                                                                        2
               This statement is based on our March 30, 1999, report on drug-related
               employee corruption. Our statement makes the following points:

             • INS’ and Customs’ compliance with their integrity procedures varied.
             • Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and INS generally complied
               with investigative procedures, but Customs’ compliance was uncertain.
             • Opportunities to learn lessons from closed corruption cases have been
               missed.


               Stretching 1,962 miles from Brownsville, TX, to Imperial Beach, CA, the
Background     Southwest Border has been a long-standing transit area for illegal drugs
               entering the United States. According to the Department of State, the
               Southwest Border is the principal transit route for cocaine, marijuana, and
               methamphetamine entering the United States. INS and Customs are
               principally responsible for stopping and seizing illegal drug shipments

               1
                In this report, if employees entered guilty pleas, we considered them to have been convicted of the
               crime.
               2
                Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee Corruption
               (GAO/GGD-99-31, Mar. 30, 1999).




               Page 3                                                                             GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                          Statement
                          Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                          Corruption




                          across the Southwest Border. At the ports of entry, about 1,300 INS and
                          2,000 Customs inspectors are to check incoming traffic to identify both
                          persons and contraband that are not allowed to enter the country.
                          Between the ports of entry and along thoroughfares in border areas, about
                          6,300 INS Border Patrol agents are to detect and prevent the illegal entry of
                          persons and contraband.

                          The corruption of INS or Customs employees is not a new phenomenon,
                          and the 1990s have seen congressional emphasis on ensuring employee
                          integrity and preventing corruption. A corrupt INS or Customs employee at
                          or between the ports of entry can help facilitate the safe passage of illegal
                          drug shipments. The integrity policies and procedures adopted by INS and
                          Customs are designed to ensure that their employees, especially those in
                          positions that could affect the smuggling of illegal drugs into the United
                          States, are of acceptable integrity and, failing that, to detect any corruption
                          as quickly as possible.

                          INS and Customs follow Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
INS and Customs           regulations, which require background investigations to be completed for
Generally Completed       new hires by the end of their first year on the job. Generally, the
Background                background investigations included a credit check, criminal record check,
                          contact with prior employers and personal references, and an interview
Investigations, but Not   with the employee. Our review found that background investigations for
Reinvestigations, When    over 99 percent of the immigration inspectors, Border Patrol agents, and
Due                       Customs inspectors hired during the first half of fiscal year 1997 were
                                                                               3
                          completed by the end of their first year on the job.

                          OPM also requires immigration inspectors, Border Patrol agents, and
                          Customs inspectors to be reinvestigated at 5-year intervals from the date
                          they enter on duty. The objective of these reinvestigations is to ensure
                          these employees’ continuing suitability for their positions. As with
                          background investigations, contractors did the reinvestigations and INS
                          and Customs were responsible for making the final determinations on
                          suitability. However, INS and Customs did not complete reinvestigations
                          within the required 5-year time frame for over three-fourths of the selected
                          Southwest Border personnel scheduled for reinvestigations in fiscal years


                          3
                            We restricted our analysis of immigration inspectors and Border Patrol agents hired in fiscal year
                          1997 to those hired by March 8, 1997, and of Customs inspectors hired in fiscal year 1997 to those hired
                          by March 25, 1997. This is because we received personnel data current as of March 1998, the 1-year
                          anniversaries of those dates, and because OPM allows agencies to employ individuals in a “subject to
                          investigation” status for up to 1 year. A background investigation should be completed during that
                          time.




                          Page 4                                                                             GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                           Statement
                           Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                           Corruption




                           1995 through 1997. In some instances, reinvestigations were as many as 3
                           years overdue.

                            To the extent that a reinvestigation constitutes an important periodic
                           check on an employee’s continuing suitability for employment in a position
                           where he or she may be exposed to bribery or other types of corruption,
                           the continuing reinvestigation backlogs at both agencies leave them more
                           vulnerable to potential employee corruption. As of March 1998, INS had
                           not yet completed 513 overdue reinvestigations of immigration inspectors
                           and Border Patrol agents. Customs had a backlog of 421 overdue
                           reinvestigations.

                           Newly hired immigration inspectors, Border Patrol agents, and Customs
Basic Integrity Training   inspectors are required to attend basic training. As part of their basic
Was Required and           training, new employees are to receive training courses on integrity
Advanced Training Was      concepts and expected behavior, including ethical concepts and values,
                           ethical dilemmas and decisionmaking, and employee conduct
Not                        expectations. This integrity training provides the only required integrity
                           training for all immigration inspectors, Border Patrol agents, and Customs
                           inspectors. For Border Patrol agents, 7 of 744 basic training hours are to be
                           devoted to integrity training. For Customs inspectors, 8 of 440 basic
                           training hours are to be devoted to integrity training. INS immigration
                           inspectors are to receive integrity training as part of their basic training,
                           but it is interspersed with other training rather than provided as a separate
                           course. Therefore, we could not determine how many hours are to be
                           devoted specifically to integrity training.

                           We selected random samples of 100 immigration inspectors, 101 Border
                           Patrol agents, and 100 Customs inspectors to determine whether they
                           received integrity training as part of their basic training. Agency records
                           we reviewed showed that 95 of 100 immigration inspectors, all 101 Border
                           Patrol agents, and 88 of 100 Customs inspectors had received basic
                           training. According to INS and Customs officials, the remaining employees
                           likely received basic training, but it was not documented in their records.

                           Justice OIG, INS, and Customs officials advocated advanced integrity
                           training for their employees to reinforce the integrity concepts presented
                                                 4
                           during basic training. The Justice OIG, INS’ Office of Internal Audit, and
                           Customs provide advanced integrity training for INS and Customs
                           employees.

                           4
                            Advanced integrity training is any nonmanagerial integrity training provided to employees following
                           completion of basic training.




                           Page 5                                                                            GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                      Statement
                      Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                      Corruption




                      While this advanced training has been available to immigration inspectors,
                      Border Patrol agents, and Customs inspectors, they were not required to
                      take it or any additional integrity training beyond what they received in
                      basic training. Consequently, some immigration inspectors, Border Patrol
                      agents, and Customs inspectors assigned to the Southwest Border had not
                      received any advanced integrity training in over 2 years.

                      Based on a survey of random samples of immigration inspectors, Border
                      Patrol agents, and Customs inspectors assigned to the Southwest Border,
                      we found that during fiscal years 1995 through 1997, 60 of 100 immigration
                      inspectors agents received no advanced integrity training. In addition, 60
                      of 76 Border Patrol agents received no advanced integrity training during
                                                                 5
                      the almost 2 ½ – year period we examined. The Customs survey indicated
                      that 24 of 100 Customs inspectors received no advanced integrity training
                      during this period.

                      The Departments of Justice and the Treasury have established procedures
Justice OIG and INS   for handling allegations of employee misconduct. Misconduct allegations
Generally Complied    arise from numerous sources, including confidential informants,
with Investigative    cooperating witnesses, anonymous tipsters, and whistle-blowers. For
                      example, whistle-blowers can report alleged misconduct through the
Procedures, but       agencies’ procedures for reporting any suspected wrongdoing. INS and
Customs’ Compliance   Customs have policies that require employees to report suspected
Was Uncertain         wrongdoing.

                      We selected five Justice OIG procedures to evaluate compliance with the
                      processing of employee misconduct allegations. In a majority of the cases
                      we reviewed, the Justice OIG complied with its procedures for receiving,
                      investigating, and resolving drug-related employee misconduct allegations.
                      For example, monthly interim reports were prepared as required in 28 of
                      39 opened cases we reviewed. In the remaining 11 cases, either some
                      information was missing in interim reports or there were no interim
                      reports in the case file.

                      INS’ Office of Internal Audit complied with its procedures for receiving
                      and resolving employee misconduct allegations in all of its cases.




                      5
                       INS did not provide us with requested training data for 25 of the 101 Border Patrol agents in our
                      sample.




                      Page 6                                                                             GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                           Statement
                           Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                           Corruption




                           Because Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs’ automated case management
                           system did not track adherence to Customs’ processing requirements, we
                           could not readily determine if the Office of Internal Affairs staff complied
                           with their investigative procedures.

                           Customs’ automated system is the official investigative record. It tracks
                           and categorizes misconduct allegations and resulting investigations and
                           disciplinary action. The investigative case files are to support the
                           automated system in tracking criminal investigative activity and contain
                           such information as printed records from the automated system, copies of
                           subpoenas and arrest warrants, and a chronology of investigative events.
                           Based on these content criteria and our file reviews, the investigative case
                           files are not intended to and generally do not document the adherence to
                           processing procedures.

                           Our analysis of the 28 closed cases revealed that drug-related corruption in
Opportunities to Learn     these cases was not restricted to any one type, location, agency, or job.
Lessons from Closed        Corruption occurred in many locations and under various circumstances
Corruption Cases Have      and times, underscoring the need for comprehensive integrity procedures
                           that are effective. The cases also represented an opportunity to identify
Been Missed                internal control weaknesses.

                           The 28 INS and Customs employees engaged in one or more drug-related
                           criminal activities, including

                         • waving drug-laden vehicles through ports of entry,

                         • coordinating the movement of drugs across the Southwest Border,

                         • transporting drugs past Border Patrol checkpoints,

                         • selling drugs, and

                         • disclosing drug intelligence information.

                           The 28 convicted employees (19 INS employees and 9 Customs employees)
                           were stationed at various locations on the Southwest Border. Six each
                           were stationed in El Paso, TX, and Calexico, CA; four were stationed in
                           Douglas, AZ; three were stationed in San Ysidro, CA; two each were
                           stationed in Hidalgo, TX, and Los Fresnos, TX; and one each was stationed
                           in Naco, AZ, Chula Vista, CA, Bayview, TX, Harlingen, TX, and Falfurrias,
                           TX.




                           Page 7                                                             GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                          Statement
                          Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                          Corruption




                          The 28 INS and Customs employees who were convicted for drug-related
                          crimes included 10 immigration inspectors, 7 Customs inspectors, 6 Border
                          Patrol agents, 3 INS Detention Enforcement Officers (DEO), 1 Customs
                          canine enforcement officer, and 1 Customs operational analysis specialist.
                          All but the three had anti-drug smuggling responsibilities. Twenty-six of
                          the convicted employees were men; 2 were women. The employment
                          histories of the convicted employees varied substantially.

                          In 19 cases, the employees acted alone, that is, no other INS or Customs
                          employees were involved in the drug-related criminal activity. In the
                          remaining nine cases, two or more INS and/or Customs employees acted
                          together. Of the 28 cases, 23 originated from information provided by
                          confidential informants or cooperating witnesses, and 5 cases originated
                          from information provided by agency whistle-blowers. Prison sentences
                          for the convicted employees ranged from 30 days, for disclosure of
                          confidential information, to life imprisonment for drug conspiracy, money
                                                                                              6
                          laundering, and bribery. The average sentence was about 10 years.

Drug-Related Corruption   Both the Justice OIG and Customs procedures require them to formally
                          report internal control weaknesses identified during investigations,
Cases Were Not Used to    including drug-related corruption investigations involving INS and
Learn Lessons             Customs employees. Generally, the Justice OIG and Customs’ Office of
                          Internal Affairs, respectively, have lead responsibility for investigating
                          criminal allegations involving INS and Customs employees. Reports of
                          internal control weaknesses are to identify any lessons to be learned that
                          can be used to prevent further employee corruption. The reports are to be
                          forwarded to agency officials who are responsible for taking corrective
                          action. Reports are not required if no internal control weaknesses are
                          identified.

                          In the 28 cases involving INS or Customs employees who were convicted
                          for drug-related crimes in fiscal years 1992 through 1997, no reports were
                          prepared. We concluded from this that either (1) there were no internal
                          control weaknesses revealed by, or lessons to be learned from, these
                          corruption cases or (2) opportunities to identify and correct internal
                          control weaknesses have been missed, and thus INS’ and Customs’
                          vulnerability to employee corruption has not been reduced.




                          6
                           The average prison sentence calculation does not include two former employees sentenced to life
                          imprisonment, and one former employee who fled the country prior to sentencing. Information is
                          provided only on the imprisonment portion of the sentences.




                          Page 8                                                                          GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                            Statement
                            Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                            Corruption




                            Justice’s OIG investigated 13 of the 28 cases. The investigative files did not
                            document whether procedures were reviewed to identify internal control
                            weaknesses. Further, there were no reports identifying internal control
                            weaknesses. According to a Justice OIG official, no reports are required if
                            no weaknesses are identified, and he could not determine why reports
                            were not prepared in these cases.

                            Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs’ Internal Affairs Handbook provides for
                            the preparation of a procedural deficiency report in those internal
                            investigations where there was a significant failure that resulted from (1)
                            failure to follow an established procedure, (2) lack of an established
                            procedure, or (3) conflicting or obsolete procedures. The report is to detail
                            the causal factors and scope of the deficiency.

                            We identified eight cases involving Customs employees investigated by
                            Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs. No procedural deficiency reports were
                            prepared in these cases. Further, the investigative files did not document
                            whether internal control weaknesses were identified. A Customs official
                            said the reports are generally not prepared.

                            Although the Justice OIG and Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs have lead
                            responsibility for investigating allegations involving INS and Customs
                            employees, the FBI is authorized to investigate INS or Customs employees.
                            Of the 28 cases, the FBI investigated 7, involving 6 INS employees and 1
                            Customs employee. Under current procedures, the FBI is not required to
                            provide the Justice OIG or Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs with case
                            information that would allow them to identify internal control weaknesses,
                            where the FBI investigation involves an INS or Customs employee. In
                            addition, while Attorney General memorandums require the FBI to identify
                            and report any internal control weaknesses identified during white-collar
                            or health care fraud investigations, a Justice Department official told us
                            that these reporting requirements do not apply to drug-related corruption
                            cases. According to FBI officials, no reports were prepared in the seven
                            cases because they were not required.

Our Review of Closed        The Justice OIG and Customs did not identify and report any internal
                            control weaknesses involving the procedures that were followed at the
Corruption Cases Revealed   ports of entry and at Border Patrol checkpoints along the Southwest
Internal Control            Border. Our review of the same cases identified several weaknesses.
Weaknesses on the
Southwest Border            We identified 14 cases in which INS or Customs inspectors knowingly
                            passed drug-laden vehicles through ports of entry. Traditionally, INS and
                            Customs have relied on internal controls to minimize this type of



                            Page 9                                                             GAO/T-GGD-99-86
Statement
Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
Corruption




corruption. These have included the random assignment and shifting of
inspectors from one lane to another and the unannounced inspection of a
group of vehicles. However, in the cases we reviewed, these internal
controls did not prevent corrupt INS and Customs personnel from allowing
drug-laden vehicles to enter the United States. In some cases, the
inspectors communicated their lane assignment and the time they would
be on duty to the drug smuggler, and in other cases, they did not. In one
case, for example, an inspector used a cellular telephone to send a
prearranged code to a drug smuggler’s beeper to tell him which lane to use
and what time to use it. In contrast, another inspector did not notify the
drug smuggler concerning his lane assignment or the times he would be on
duty. In that case, the drug smuggler used an individual, referred to as a
spotter, to conduct surveillance of the port of entry. The spotter used a
cellular telephone to contact the driver of the drug-laden vehicle to tell him
which lane to drive through.

The drug smugglers’ schemes succeeded in these cases because the drivers
of the drug-laden vehicles could choose the lane they wanted to use for
inspection purposes. These cases support the implementation of one or
more methods to deprive drivers of their choice of inspection lanes at
ports of entry. At the time of our review, Customs was testing a method to
assign drivers to inspection lanes at ports of entry.

In 10 of 28 cases, drug smugglers relied on friendships, personal
relationships, or symbols of law enforcement authority to move drug loads
through a port of entry or past a Border Patrol checkpoint. In these 10
cases, drug smugglers believed that coworkers, relatives, and friends of
Customs or immigration inspectors, or law enforcement officials, would
not be inspected or would be given preferential treatment in the inspection
process. For example, a Border Patrol agent relied on his friendships with
his coworkers to avoid inspection at a Border Patrol checkpoint where he
was stationed. In another case, an inspector agreed to allow her boyfriend
to smuggle drugs through a port of entry. The boyfriend used his personal
and intimate relationship with the inspector to solicit drug shipments from
drug dealers. Two DEOs working together used INS detention buses and
vans to transport drugs past a Border Patrol checkpoint. In two separate
cases, former INS employees relied on friendships they had developed
during their tenure with the agency to smuggle drugs through ports of
entry and past Border Patrol checkpoints.

INS and Customs do not have written recusal policies concerning the
performance of inspections where the relationship of immigration or
Customs inspectors and Border Patrol agents to the person being



Page 10                                                            GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                            Statement
                            Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                            Corruption




                            inspected is such that they may not objectively perform the inspection.
                            Nor do they have a written inspection policy for law enforcement officers
                            or their vehicles. For example, our review of the cases determined that, on
                            numerous occasions, INS DEOs drove INS vehicles with drug loads past
                            Border Patrol checkpoints without being inspected.

INS and Customs Have Not    INS and Customs have not evaluated the effectiveness of their integrity
                            assurance procedures to identify areas that could be improved. According
Evaluated Their Integrity   to Justice OIG, INS, and Customs officials, agency integrity procedures
Procedures                  have not been evaluated to determine if they are effective. The Acting
                            Deputy Commissioner of Customs said that there were no evaluations of
                            the effectiveness of Customs integrity procedures. Similarly, officials in
                            INS’ Offices of Internal Audit and Personnel Security said that there were
                            no evaluations of the effectiveness of INS’ integrity procedures. According
                            to the Justice Inspector General, virtually no work had been done to
                            review closed corruption cases or interview convicted employees to
                            identify areas of vulnerability.

                            Based on our review, one way to evaluate the effectiveness of agency
                            integrity procedures would be to use drug-related investigative case
                            information. For example, the objective of background investigations or
                            reinvestigations is to determine an individual’s suitability for employment,
                            including whether he or she has the required integrity. All 28 of the INS
                            and Customs employees who were convicted for drug-related crimes
                            received background investigations or reinvestigations that determined
                            they were suitable. According to INS and Customs security officials,
                            financial information, required to be provided by employees as part of
                            their background investigations or reinvestigations, is to be used to
                            determine whether they appear to be living beyond their means, or have
                            unsatisfied debts. If either of these issues arises, it must be satisfactorily
                            resolved before INS or Customs can determine that the employee is
                            suitable. In addition, Justice policy provides for the temporary removal of
                            immigration inspectors and Border Patrol agents if they are unable and/or
                                                              7
                            unwilling to satisfy their debts.

                            Our review of background investigation and reinvestigation files for
                            convicted INS employees showed that immigration inspectors and Border
                            Patrol agents were required to provide limited financial information on
                            liabilities, including bankruptcies, wage garnishment, property
                            repossession, and liens for taxes or other debts or judgements that have

                            7
                             Justice Department policy defines debt as “lawful financial obligations that are just debts that are past
                            due.”




                            Page 11                                                                              GAO/T-GGD-99-86
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Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
Corruption




                   8
not been paid. They were not required to provide information on their
assets. In comparison, Customs inspectors and canine enforcement
officers were required to provide information on both their assets and
liabilities, including financial information for themselves and their
immediate families on their bank accounts, automobiles, real estate,
securities, safe deposit boxes, business investments, art, boats, antiques,
                                                                    9
inheritance, mortgage, and debts and obligations exceeding $200.

Our review of the 28 cases involving convicted INS and Customs
employees disclosed that 26 of 28 employees were offered or received
financial remuneration for their illegal acts. At least two were substantially
indebted, and at least four were shown to be living beyond their means.
For example, one of the closed cases we reviewed involved an immigration
inspector who said he became involved with a drug smuggler because he
had substantial credit card debt and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Given
the limited financial information immigration inspectors are required to
provide, this inspector might not have been identified as a potential risk. In
another case, a mid-level Border Patrol agent owned a house valued at
approximately $200,000, an Olympic-sized swimming pool in its own
separate building, a 5-car garage, 5 automobiles, 1 van, 2 boats,
approximately 100 weapons, $45,000 in treasury bills, 40 acres of land, and
had no debt. Given the current background investigation or reinvestigation
financial reporting requirements for Border Patrol agents, this agent would
not have had anything to report, since he was not required to report his
assets, and he had no debts to report.

Our review of Customs files for eight of the nine convicted Customs
employees showed that the Customs inspectors and canine enforcement
officers had completed financial disclosure statements that included their
assets and liabilities as part of their employee background investigations
and reinvestigations. However, based on our case file review, Customs
does not fully use all of the financial information. For example, according
to a Customs official, reported liabilities are to be compared with debts
listed on a credit report to determine if all debts were reported. Thus, their
current use of the reported financial information would not have helped to
identify an employee who was living well beyond his means or whose
debts were excessive.

8
 Immigration inspectors and Border Patrol agents are to complete a Questionnaire for National
Security Positions as part of their background investigation and reinvestigation.
9
 Customs inspectors and canine enforcement officers are to complete a Questionnaire for Public Trust
Positions and a Financial Statement on Customs Form 257 as part of their background investigation
and reinvestigation.




Page 12                                                                         GAO/T-GGD-99-86
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                    Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                    Corruption




                    Another source of evaluative information for INS and Customs could be
                    the experiences of other federal agencies with integrity prevention and
                    detection policies and procedures. For example, while INS’ and Customs’
                    procedures were similar to those used by other federal law enforcement
                    agencies, several differences exist. According to agency officials, INS and
                    Customs did not require advanced integrity training, polygraph
                    examinations, or panel interviews before hiring, while the FBI, DEA, and
                    Secret Service did have these requirements. Among the five agencies, only
                    DEA required new employees to be assigned to a mentor to reinforce
                    agency values and procedures. Since these policies and procedures are
                    used by other agencies, they may be applicable to INS and Customs.

                    During our review, the Justice OIG, INS, the Treasury OIG, and Customs
                    began to review their anticorruption efforts. These efforts have not been
                    completed, and it is too early to determine what their outcomes will be.

                    Given the enormous sums of money being generated by drug trafficking
Recommendations     and the corruption of some INS and Customs employees along the
                    Southwest Border, both INS and Customs are vulnerable to the threat of
                    corruption. Accordingly, we recommended that the Attorney General

                  • direct the Commissioner of INS to evaluate the effectiveness of integrity
                    assurance efforts, such as training, background investigations, and
                    reinvestigations;

                  • require the Commissioner of INS to comply with policies that require
                    employment reinvestigations to be completed when they are due;

                  • 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;

                  • 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;



                    Page 13                                                            GAO/T-GGD-99-86
  Statement
  Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
  Corruption




• 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;
  and

• require the Director of the 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 apply in those cases where (1) the Justice
  OIG or Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs was 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.

  We also recommended that the Secretary of the Treasury

• direct the Commissioner of Customs to evaluate the effectiveness of
  integrity assurance efforts, including training, background investigations,
  and reinvestigations;

• require the Commissioner of Customs to comply with policies that require
  employment reinvestigations to be completed when they are due;

• 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 drug-
  related criminal activities;

• require the Commissioner of Customs to comply with the policies that
  require employment reinvestigations to be completed when they are due;

• 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;

• 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; and




  Page 14                                                            GAO/T-GGD-99-86
                       Statement
                       Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
                       Corruption




                     • 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.

                       The Department of Justice generally agreed with the substance of the
Agencies’ Comments     report and recognized the importance of taking all possible actions to
on Our Report          reduce the potential for corruption. However, Justice expressed
                       reservations about implementing two of the six recommendations
                       addressed to the Attorney General.

                       First, Justice expressed reservations about implementing our
                       recommendation that Border Patrol agents and immigration inspectors file
                       financial disclosure statements as part of their background investigations
                       or reinvestigations. Specifically, it noted that implementing financial
                       disclosure “has obstacles to be met and at present the DOJ has limited data
                       to suggest that they would provide better data or greater assurance of a
                       person’s integrity.”

                       We recognized that implementation of this recommendation will require
                       some administrative actions by INS. However, these actions are consistent
                       with the routine management practices associated with making policy
                       changes within the agency. Therefore, the obstacles do not appear to be
                       inordinate or insurmountable. Concerning the limited data about the
                       benefits of financial reporting, according to OPM officials and the
                       adjudication manual for background investigations and reinvestigations,
                       financial information can have a direct bearing and impact on determining
                       an individual’s integrity. The circumstances described in our case studies
                       suggest that financial reporting could have raised issues for follow-up
                       during a background investigation or reinvestigation. We recognize that
                       there may be questions on the effectiveness of this procedure; therefore,
                       this report contains a recommendation for an overall evaluation of INS’
                       integrity assurance efforts.

                       Secondly, Justice expressed reservations about implementing our
                       recommendation that the FBI develop a procedure to provide information
                       to the Justice OIG or Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs on internal control
                       weaknesses. Therefore, we clarified our recommendation to indicate that
                       the procedure should only apply in those cases where (1) the Justice OIG
                       or Customs’ Office of Internal Affairs was 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. If internal control
                       weaknesses in INS or Customs are known to the FBI and not disclosed to



                       Page 15                                                            GAO/T-GGD-99-86
Statement
Drug Control: INS and Customs Can Do More To Prevent Drug-Related Employee
Corruption




those agencies, then the agencies are not in the best position to correct the
abuses.

The Department of the Treasury provided comments from Customs that
generally concurred with our recommendations and indicated that it is
taking steps to implement them. However, Customs requested that we
reconsider our recommendation that Customs fully review financial
disclosure statements that are provided as part of the background and
reinvestigation process. Our recommendation expected Customs to make
a more thorough examination of the financial information it collects to
determine if employees appear to be living beyond their means. We leave it
to Customs’ discretion to determine the type of examination to be
performed.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be pleased
to answer any questions that you or other Members of the Caucus may
have.




Page 16                                                            GAO/T-GGD-99-86
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