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Perspective: Homeland Corruption

Author: John Christopher Fine

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2012-06-29
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Michael McCaul, the U.S. Representative from Texas and Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, revealed that that since 2004 130 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have been arrested on charges that have included drug smuggling, money laundering and smuggling.  (See The Epoch Times,  May 26, 2012)

The Congressional investigation is not surprising. When absolute power is vested in people, use of it often leads to corruption. Most government agencies have a mandated Inspector General. The IG is required to root out corruption and misconduct. Since the Inspector General is appointed by the administrator of the agency or that person’s political boss, the office holder is beholding to the administration to prevent scandals from surfacing. The Inspector General, akin to any governmental self-protection agency, protects the head of the department. The officer in charge is a political appointee and owes loyalty to the person that appoints. “Protect the administration” is the key to self-regulation.

J. Edgar Hoover, don of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for decades, was a master at self-protection. During his tenure over many years since the foundation of the FBI, no scandal ever surfaced. The FBI was squeaky clean. At least insofar as the public was concerned. J. Edgar Hoover had dirt and secret files on most politicians so few there were that would expose him or the FBI during public or Congressional hearings during his lifetime.

Fast forward to today’s world. Gone are many of the trustworthy, responsible people who returned from military service and entered law enforcement. Many of today’s applicants are unsuited for the tasks they are called upon to perform. Many are chosen to fulfill quotas established by civil rights laws and political agendas. Some have dubious backgrounds or exhibit personality issues that would exclude them from public service only to find a niche among the minions of Homeland Security. The need to fill thousands of job slots quickly has made the task of screening more difficult and acceptance of marginal candidates acceptable.

Anyone who has gone through an airport checkpoint knows the capricious nature of screening employees. Some select some objects as prohibitions while others ignore the same items. They are all able to take knitting needles away from elderly travelers but can really do little to prevent terrorism other than increase the cost of travel and inconvenience innocent travelers. Any criminal with intent to do harm is not deterred by the kind of service Homeland Security provides at airports. Criminals are well aware of how to evade established security norms.

The U.S. Border Patrol, an arm of the blanket super agency that is the Department of Homeland Security, used to be staffed with responsible officers. This is not to degrade the integrity of so many honest and competent men and women of the service. The problem is, as the Congressional hearings reveal, the agency is fraught with criminals. Those that have been caught barely scratch the surface of an iceberg of misconduct and corruption. Because of the very nature of the job, dealing with people on the edge of survival striving for a better life in the U.S. paying coyotes to get them illegally across borders and having cash and all they possess on them, abuse is rampant. In addition to corruption there is flagrant misconduct and abuse of power.

One example involved Customs and Border Protection agents acting in Florida. Their conduct amounted to violation of U.S. civil rights laws. They responded to local law enforcement’s stopping of some Latin people in a boat. As a result they took over a public boat launching ramp and park. A woman walked past to get to her car. She was stopped, accosted and insulted. She was made to walk to her car and the car illegally searched by a CBP officer. The man was abusive and mean. The CBP agent should have been arrested and removed from his job. Nothing came of it since no complaint was made. Even if a complaint was issued there likely would have been a cover-up unless the incident was recorded on video tape and shown on national television.

This goes on every day. There is training for federal agents at various sites. One main federal law enforcement training facility is in Brunswick, Georgia. The training is sufficient to let them carry wooden guns for a while in military fatigues then eventually go armed into the fray but not sort out good from bad.

The Epoch Times quoted Chairman McCaul who said “Even though there are stacks of [federal] government manuals, training materials, and yearly briefings about ethics, lapses continue.” What the Chairman related is a major failure in a system designed to protect individuals from abuse. Bribery and corruption seems to be one aspect of Homeland Security’s beach of confidence toward the American people. The arrogance and abuse of power on the streets and in secret border crossings, where no one ever sees them, is another. That is a far more serious consequence to American liberties and a crime never prosecuted since it goes on unseen and unreported.

People in public safety are given power. This power must be tempered with close supervision. Direct supervision by administrators, internal affairs sting operations and vigilance by Inspectors General must be able to catch abuses and abusers before the conduct become flagrant. Congressman McCaul praised the efforts of the honest men and women that serve Homeland Security in various capacities. His investigation and hearings also pointed out a need to do more to insure that misconduct is rooted out.

There can be no relinquishment of liberty without the loss of human dignity. It was upon those principles that America was founded. Demand for civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights must be enforced by government elected by the people. That is the foundation of our democracy. Homeland Security has been dishonored and many agents and their supervisors disgraced. The uncaught are like the undead, they go on with their abuses with very little chance of ever being brought to justice.


John Christopher Fine served as Senior Assistant District Attorney in New York County. He was the Assistant Attorney General In Charge, Organized Crime Task Force and served various state and federal law enforcement and investigative agencies. Fine also served in the United States Department of State’s Inspector General's Office where he investigated and reported to the Secretary, President and Congress on military, USAID, and US programs overseas describing corruption, waste, and improper conduct.  He is the author of 24 books and remains a consultant to law enforcement on national security issues and organized crime, and a frequent contributor to 9-1-1 Magazine.


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