ICE agents ac­cused of snoop­ing data­bases Drug car­tels make cor­rup­tion ‘easy’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY JIM MCELHATTON

At least a half-dozen federal im­mi­gra­tion agents have come un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion since 2012 for snoop­ing into law en­force­ment data­bases — com­puter mis­con­duct rang­ing from “self queries” to ac­cu­sa­tions that one of them tried to use the data­bases to warn drug smug­glers if they were un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The in­for­ma­tion, gleaned from highly redacted records ob­tained through the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, in­cludes the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of one Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cer tied to a “drug-traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion that has uti­lized com­pro­mised law-en­force­ment of­fi­cers in the past.”

Bor­der an­a­lyst James Phelps, a pro­fes­sor at An­gelo State Univer­sity, es­ti­mates that as many as 300 law en­force­ment of­fi­cers are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for cor­rup­tion near the bor­der. He also said that hav­ing an in­sider with ac­cess to a law en­force­ment com­puter makes it eas­ier to lure the next cor­rupt of­fi­cer.

“How do you cor­rupt some­one like that? It’s real easy,” Mr. Phelps said. “You of­fer them more money in a weekend than they make in an en­tire year.”

“If you can get a hold of a per­son’s driver’s li­cense, you can find out ev­ery­thing — the works,” he said. “If the car­tels can iden­tify an agent by name and find out where they live, they can come and make an of­fer,” Mr. Phelps said. “Take our money and turn a blind eye, or we kill your mom. Down in Mex­ico, the car­tels have no prob­lem do­ing that, and that’s where you have a lot of agents fail.”

Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion did not re­spond to mes­sages seek­ing com­ment Wed­nes­day or Thurs­day. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­fi­cials were un­able to dis­cuss spe­cific cases sum­ma­rized in records ob­tained by The Times.

“ICE agents and of­fi­cers are held to the high­est stan­dards of pro­fes­sional and eth­i­cal con­duct,” ICE spokes­woman Gil­lian Chris­tensen said. “The agency does not tol­er­ate mis­con­duct, and re­ports of any such ac­tions are swiftly in­ves­ti­gated and dealt with ap­pro­pri­ately.”

The Times ob­tained the in­for­ma­tion as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of com­puter mis­use among federal em­ploy­ees.

The ma­jor­ity of cases at other agencies re­veal mis­deeds like look­ing at pornog­ra­phy in the of­fice, but the com­puter mis­con­duct at ICE and CBP largely stemmed from im­proper ac­cess to elec­tronic law-en­force­ment records.

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