Friday, April 08, 2011

Hindsight in lieu of foresight: Corruption among border officials was foreseeable, preventable

NBC News has a fascinating report on growing corruption among US Border Patrol and customs agents:
At a U.S. Senate hearing, it was revealed that Mexican cartel members are infiltrating American law enforcement. There was also testimony that during a hiring push that began five years ago to add thousands of Border Patrol and CBP officers, only 10 percent of the initial applicants were given polygraph tests.

Of those, 60 percent failed, raising concerns about the integrity of the others hired without screening.

"A very large percentage of those they don't test run into trouble within a year or two of being hired,” says Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.. 
Gosh, how could anyone have predicted this outcome? Unless, of course, they read this Grits post when the Bush-era hiring expansion was launched, in which this blog argued:
Seriously - if you were a cartel leader, wouldn't you be manufacturing phony ID papers and sending in your lieutenants to apply for these slots as quick as you could? And do you think the Bush Homeland Security department will handle vetting 10,000 new agents any more competently than, say, the response to Hurrcane Katrina?

Maybe I'm just being cyncial, or maybe I've just seen it happen too many times, but I predict we'll see increased corruption problems among border officials in coming years as a result of this illogically rapid, politically motivated border security buildup.
You could see this coming a mile away, but now those whose, ill-conceived, feel-good policies created this situation five years ago want credit for trying to clean up a preventable mess of their own making: Further evidence, if it were needed, of the results when demagoguery and policymaking collide.


ckikerintulia said...

Scott, I'm sure you meant " . . . where demagoguery and policy making collide." I think it would also be appropriate to say ". . . where demagoguery and policm making collude."

Anonymous said...

Foreseeable and preventable.....hmmm

Hindsight is always 20/20....

When you look back on something it is always the above...

Maybe the Government should hire Grits as a special oversight supervisor to prevent these bad headlines......

In all seriousness though, I understand that there will always be weal individuals who can be influenced by money. It doesn't matter what the profession, age,gender, or anything else.

The only way to prevent this is through sound principals of checks and balances.

On most things in Law Enforcement I would agree that the public does not need to know, but when it comes to accountability in matters involving finances I believe that total transparency should be the word of the day.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hindsight is 20/20, 12:50, but check the link: I predicted this on the front end.

Anonymous said...

normally i am with you on 95% of your posts and this may be true, however your tone in this post is just condescending and arrogant to the point of really irritating me on this fine friday afternoon. dial it down dude.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:24, go enjoy your afternoon. If you're irritated at an "I told you so" post, so be it. This outcome was as predictable as the sunrise.

Anonymous said...

"On most things in Law Enforcement I would agree that the public does not need to know"

I would agree in the short run with this statement. LE intellegence operations are a good example. However, there is a point that with only a few examples information should not be declassified. How else do you maintain good accountability. And maintain an accurate historical account.


Anonymous said...

Thats about as accurate as someone prdicting unrest in the Middle East!!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

2:16, that's exactly my point! This isn't rocket science. How could they not foresee it?

That's why 1:24 sees this post as "condescending" ... it is. You'd have to be a moron not to predict this, but they rushed to hire 10,000 agents without performing sufficient background checks. I'm not claiming to be Nostradamus here; as I said, it was like predicting tomorrow's sunrise, which is why it's absurd the process was handled so poorly.

Anonymous said...

Why are you so upset? You want open borders and that's what we have. Not one out of a hundred rushing across our border is stopped. You should be thrilled by that.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

3:57, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Okay folks. Let me give you the "bad" news. Grits is on the mark on this one (again). Internal affairs officers, IG offices and many in management were quite aware of the problem when the hiring started. They had ssen the same problem years earlier in DC police hiring, in Miami (River Cops case) and, to a small extent, Customs Investigations years ago. All had gone through a massive hiring process and Customs had been specifically told that if they didn't hire by the end of that fiscal year, they would lose the positions. They did as Congress directed (and as the Border Patrol has) and they had a problem that started showing up about 5 years later. Border Patrol is now having the same problem. You don't bring on 1,000 people a year and expect any different...and Scott knew it. I've been discussing it for years with peers in the profession but as long as Congress demands the slots be filled as quickly as possible and your pay (as least a few years ago, much better now) wasn't that good, while having the positions in various holes along the border (you know, great schools, major medical centers nearby, quality housing available - not!) with some really boring work at times (sit in this car for 8 hours - you're a deterent), you don't get the pick of the crop that are otherwise interested in LE. With family ties for many in the area they work (on both sides of the river) the potential for problems in tremendious. And there is nothing you can really do if they have a clean record, especially if young with no time to screw up in their adult life. Background doesn't necessarily help in those cases (and I've done a few). Hell, I've known a BP agent that was a smuggler as a kid before he became an agent. Not all that unusual. The union will also do their dangest to prevent transfers that could address some issues (it's also expensive). Yes, 12:50 it was foreseeable and preventable. Further, the Border Patrol management isn't made up of rocket scientists, just high school educated folks interested in increasing the size of their bureaucratic empire. First clown I ever detained in my own somewhat checkered career came out of the river with a pistol in his waist band and a long gun across his back and the BP agents on scene had no idea as to how to deal with him since he was "legal". Like I said, not a bunch of rocket boyos. :~)

Anonymous said...

Anytime you hire people in mass you will have problems. It is just part of the odds. However, as we all know a LE career does not provide the best pay. After working around LE for 20 yrs I have seen some good cops do some desperte things just to make ends meet at home. I am not justifying their behavior just calling attention to an underpaid profession were most of the guys and gals are trying to support a family on 35-50K a year in areas where employment for the other spouse is almost nonexistent.

BTW if you think Border Patrol has problems you should see some small town Sheriffs offices along the border where the pay is less than that and drug money is everywhere in these small communities.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, three years I wrote both of our TX senators and my congressman suggesting a Border Patrol reserve force that would consist of honorably retired peace officers.

Fell on deaf ears I suppose.

Ok, I'm ready for the smart ass comments.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:20,

Current pay for an agent with a few years on duty has really improved to bolster hiring with a BP agent making in excess of $75,000 a year now. Pay was a problem when they originally started the hiring push but not much of one now - espeically for a high school educated kid who grew up on "the line".

Anonymous said...


The idea has been floated before (knew a federal agent out of AZ who was pushing it via FLEOA) but the organizations in federal law enforcement generally have a problem, I suspect, because it hasn't been done before, and the time involved to address training, and by extention, liability, for the "reserves". With training done at distant locations (Brunswick, GA, etc.) instead of at a local academy, cost issues may also be a consideration to justify a negative decision. They also might consider a volunteer a greater security issue as they may feel they have a greater motivation to profit (as they aren't receiving a salary) inappropriately.

The Park Service does have a volunteer force but to my knowledge they are limited to interpretive duties and not law enforcement so the position carries limited security/liability issues.

Background investigations tend to be done by retired criminal investigators working for private contractors and they, obviously draw a salary.

Then their are those working in Bosnia, Iraq, etc., but that's a bit off the mark.

Just some background.

malcolm kyle said...

Prohibition is nothing but a weird and dangerous cult of collective self mutilation.

Thanks to Prohibition, we are at the cusp of losing all semblance of our once ordered, prosperous and relatively safe society. Myself, along with many others, have been debating prohibitionists on this for many years. We have shown them what great destruction prohibition has wrought, on all the civil institutions of this once great nation, -we have always provided factual and variable evidence - they, the prohibitionists, have countered with either lies, personal abuse or even serious threats of violence.

Ending the insanity of drug prohibition by legalized regulation, respecting the rights of the responsible users, and focusing on addiction as a sickness, like we do with alcohol and tobacco, may save what remains of our economy and civil institutions along with countless lives and livelihoods. Prohibition continues unabated for shameful political reasons. It can not, and never will, reduce drug use or addiction.

Prohibition has permanently scarred our national character as well as our individual psyches. Our national policies and cultural practices have become pervaded by the fascistic, prohibitionist mind-set which has turned our domestic police force into a bunch of paramilitary thugs who often commit extra-judicial beatings and executions while running roughshod over our rights in order to "protect us from ourselves".

When we eventually manage to put the horrors of this toxic moronothon behind us, we'll need to engage in some very deep and honest soul-searching as to what we want to be as a nation. Many of our freedoms have been severely circumscribed or lost altogether, our economy has been trashed and our international reputation for being "free and fair" has been dragged through a putrid sewer by vicious narrow-minded drug warrior zealots who are ignorant of abstract concepts such as truth, justice and decency. We'll need to make sure that such a catastrophe is never ever repeated. This may mean that public hearings or tribunals will be held where those who have been the instigators and cheerleaders of this abomination will have to answer for their serious crimes against our once prosperous and proud nation.

Each day you remain silent, you help to destroy the Constitution, fill the prisons with our children, and empower terrorists and criminals worldwide while wasting hundreds of billions of your own tax dollars. Prohibition bears many strong and startling similarities to Torquemada­'s inquisition­, it's supporters are servants of tyranny and hate. If you're aware of but not enraged by it's shear waste and cruel atrocities then both your heart and soul must surely be dead.

Prohibition engendered black market profits are obscenely huge. Remove this and you remove the ability to bribe or threaten any government official or even whole governments. The argument that legalized regulation won't severely cripple organized crime is truly bizarre. Of course, the bad guys won't just disappear, but if you severely diminish their income, you also severely diminish their power. The proceeds from theft, extortion, pirated goods etc. are a drop in the ocean compared to what can be earned by selling prohibited/unregulated drugs in a black market estimated to be worth 400,000 million dollars. Without the lure and power of so much easy capital, it's also very unlikely that new criminal enterprises will ever fill the void left by those you successfully disrupt or entirely eradicate.

Millions of fearless North Africans have recently shown us that recognizing oppression also carries the weight of responsibility to act upon and oppose that oppression. Prohibition is a vicious anti-constitutional assault on ALL American citizens by a criminally insane and dysfunctional government, which left unchallenged will end with the destruction of the entire nation.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:33......when I wrote Cornyn and Hutchinson I advocated for a paid reserve force rather than a volunteer force. I didn't restrict it to "boots on the ground" and included in my proposal to utilize these men and women in clerical and administrative duties which would free up funding for more "boots on the ground."

I don't see the liability or training as a concern as many of our deputies are assigned to different federal agencies in the way of auto theft task forces, special US marshals to participate on fugitive task forces, etc.

Anonymous said...


Devil's advocate. From a management perspective, what do I gain spending money on a reservist vs. spending money on a full-time position? I'm still spending "my" money. From a union perspective, it's a slot not paying dues.

Hiring for a task force in Dallas is a bit different than hiring for a task force on the border with the level of corruption found in local law enforcement and I don't expect a lot of reservists to be working the river to volunteer from Dallas, Houston and the San Antonio-Austin area, the three biggest areas for LE retirees.

Also the reason many agenices allow officers to be in a task force is that they benefit in some way. Ask Houston PD. They roll in the money on currency task forces. No seizures to be shared, no HPD officers assigned. Fugitive task forces? In some cases, for example, a constable gets funding from the Commissioner's Court for the extra body thereby growing his empire. Sometimes simply stats. But always something. As the character House says on TV, it's always about self-interest.

But your other difficulty is to who you are directing the idea. The only thing worse is sending some type of idea to the White House (of any administration) and expecting action. These people get thousands of letters every month from the 25,000,000 people they represent. Strip the time spent addressing the political arena and you get an idea of the amount of time devoted by their staff to this or any other idea thrown over the transom. When it is addressed it's done by sending it to the agency concerned for a response and that response is simply about keeping the Senator happy - not about the value of the original idea nor the citizen's happiness (especially in LE where many think that an outsider has little to any concept of the "situation" they (LE) deal with. Think how many in your own agency paid attention to the demands or suggestions from "Joe Civilian" especially related to doing the job or addressing IA issues.

It's why ideas are marketed via lobbyists, interest groups, etc. Ask Grits. He's been trying to move various ideas for years and is an expert on the problems and possibilities of influencing legislatures.:~)

Anonymous said...


As far as costs go, I'd have to have a new background done on every reservist brought on (if retired). Normal, and appropriate, policy. Further, if they had access, whether clerical and administrative to classified data they are looking at 5 figures being spent for each background investigation. One of the advantages to using National Guard for clerical work; generally possess the appropriate clearence from their NG duties.

Anonymous said...

"Appropriate clearance"...but not necessarily the appropriate education (at least for writing on a blog!).