Corruption and bribery in federal agencies focus of government probe into drug trade
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Lawmakers on Capitol Hill today examined the issue of drug cartels infiltrating federal law enforcement and bribing government employees. Officials from the FBI, Homeland Security's Inspector General's Office, and Custom and Border Protection, or CBP, testified before a Senate Subcommittee on State, Local, and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration. Although Mexican cartels are looking to federal, state and local officials to help facilitate the multi-billion dollar drug industry, Committee Chair Mark Pryor said one agency in particular is affected.
"The border patrol seems to be the biggest target and have the most corruption. A news report recently said there's been a forty percent increase in CBP corruption arrests and dozen of open investigations. Other possible targets would be ICE, FBI, TSA, DEA and probably a few more, but they seem to be less vulnerable and I'm assuming that's because the CPB is on the front line."
Pryor also said CBP is a target because of all the new staff. The agency has doubled in size over the last ten years. But some officials say they're making progress with investigations and arrests. Thomas Frost is with the Office of Inspector General in the Department of Homeland Security.
"Border related corruption is not limited to one DHS component. It can touch employees and contractors across DHS as well as employees of state and local governments. In Fiscal Year 2009 we opened over 839 criminal cases involving DHS employees and programs. Our investigations resulted in 313 arrests, 293 indictments, 281 convictions and 59 administrative actions."
Officials also discussed CBP's hiring program as a possible entry point for drug smugglers. Both Senator Pryor and DHS officials said more screening of job applicants and employees is needed, including broader use of polygraph tests and monitoring employees for "erratic behavior or questionable performance." Today's hearing did not investigate drug cartel infiltration at the state and local level, which Pryor said is also a big concern.