Tag Archives: DHS

Putting the secret in an investigation of the Secret Service

By SB Anderson

Two not-so-helpful tables from a lengthy Inspector General’s report released today that found no evidence of widespread problems with inappropriate behavior within the U.S. Secret Service.

“Although individual employees have engaged in misconduct or inappropriate behavior, we did not find evidence that misconduct is widespread in USSS,” the report (download PDF) from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s office summarizes. The IG’s investigation was prompted by reports of hiring prostitutes and excessive drinking by agents on an advance team for a presidential visit to Cartagena, Colombia.

DHS Inspector General Report Redacted Table 1

DHS Inspector General Report Redacted Table 1

Washington Post summary of the report.

You’re getting a digital pat-down from TSA long before you even get to the gate

By SB Anderson

The Transportation Security Administration apparently is doing a major digital pat-down of passengers before they reach the airport security gate, “searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information,” the New York Times reports this morning.

(UPDATE; While it doesn’t cite the New York Times story directly, a TSA blog item posted mid-day today seems to refute the story’s premise that the amount of data being examined has expanded.)

The database searches extend beyond the standard “Secure Flight” data screens that compare date of birth, name and gender against watch lists, and beyond passengers entering the country, the Times aid.

“It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information,” the Times said.

One official from a privacy group called the data screening “a pre-crime assessment every time you fly.” Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project added: “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.”

$61 million in duplicate technology programs unearthed at Defense and Homeland Security

By SB Anderson

The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Homeland Defense spent $61 million on six potentially  redundant information technology projects, a study by the General Accountability Office found.

GAO report on duplicative IT resources

Details directly from the report on what was found:

“Two potentially duplicative investments totaling about $30 million at DHS that are used to “book” and process apprehended illegal aliens who are suspected of committing criminal and administrative violations, commonly referred to as immigration enforcement booking management;

“Four such investments totaling about $31 million at DOD, which include two investments totaling $16 million that track health care status of warfighters and two investments totaling $15 million that manage dental care.”

The GAO said the Department of Defense cancelled one of the health care systems and will consolidate the dental systems “but had not developed a plan on how this was to be accomplished.”

Homeland Security cited “unique requirements” for the dual immigration booking systems, “but were unable to provide analysis showing why one system couldnot satisfy the unique requirements.”

Read the full GAO report (PDF)

First step in tracking excessive force at Customs & Border Patrol? Need the right data to count

By SB Anderson

The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General has concluded its examination of use of excessive force within the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and its first recommendation: Customs and Border Patrol needs to start specifically tracking the number of excessive force allegations and cases because the inspector general’s staff wasn’t able to count them accurately with the data currently being kept.

“Allegations of employee misconduct that are entered into Department of Homeland Security (DHS) case management systems are assigned one of several case allegation types; however, there is no primary use of force designation. As a result, we were unable to identify the total number of excessive force allegations and investigations involving CBP employees,” the just-released report said.

The inspector general began investigating incidents of excessive force in 2012 after media reports about an undocumented immigrant dying in 2010 while in Customs and Border Patrol custody in Southern California. Congressional calls for an investigation followed the stories.

Some 21,000 records of possible excessive force incidents were turned over to investigators, who narrowed their review down to just over 2,000 records that seemed most likely to indicate excessive force from 2007 to 2012. It found 1,323 that might include excessive force or use of force. (See below)

Inspector General use of force investigation
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Former 9/11 Commission chairs warn Congressional ‘patchwork’ oversight’ of DHS threatens nation’s safety

By SB Anderson

Streamlining and consolidating Congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security was one of the major recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, yet almost a decade after the commission’s report, “More than 100 congressional committees and subcommittees currently claim jurisdiction over it” causing a “patchwork system of supervision [that] results in near-paralysis and a lack of real accountability,” the chairs of the 9/11 Commission said today.

The end result: “Our country is still not as safe as it could and should be,” Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean declare in a New York Times Op-ed piece today labelled “Homeland Confusion.”

The column is timed to today’s release of a report by a task force empaneled by The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and the Aspen Institute’s Justice & Society Program; Hamilton and Kean served on that committee. (Read the report below). The report sets out why it’s important to consolidate a congressional system in which 100 committees and subcommittees now have jurisdiction over pieces of the department. The graphic below, from the report, gives you an idea of the very large number of Congressional touchpoints. (Click image for larger version).


Homeland security grants at work protecting pumpkin festivals, Easter egg hunts and spring training games

By SB Anderson

imageA portion of the billions in federal grants to local governments to bolster national security has instead gone toward specious investments with little or no impact on national security protection, a Senate investigation released today found.

Subsidized military equipment was used to patrol a pumpkin festival in New Hampshire and at an Easter egg hunt in California, Funds were used  for surveillance equipment at a spring training facility in Arizona and for a “zombie apocalypse” demonstration at a counter-terrorism summit at a California resort.

The take on it from the Los Angeles Times: “The study found that some cities and towns had created implausible attack scenarios to win federal grants, and had scrambled at the end of each fiscal year to buy extra, unnecessary gadgets to spend excess cash.”

The senator who commissioned the study said the Department of Homeland Security “has been unable to establish goals or metrics to ensure that funds were used to make Americans safe, and cannot accurately measure how much safer we are today after spending $35 billion.”

If lawmakers who approved the program a decade ago could have peered in to the future, “We would have been frustrated to learn that limited federal resources were now subsidizing the purchase of low-priority items like an armored vehicles to protect festivals in rural New Hampshire, procure an underwater robot in Ohio and to pay for first responder attendance at a five-day spa junket that featured a display of tactical prowess in the face of a “zombie apocalypse,”  Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says in a release from his office. 

Among the cities and regions examined:

  • Arizona: Phoenix and Tucson 
  • California: Bakersfield, Oxnard, Riverside, Sacramento, and San Diego 
  • Colorado: Denver 
  • Indiana: Indianapolis 
  • Louisiana: Baton Rouge and New Orleans 
  • Minnesota: Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) 
  • Ohio: Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo 
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma City and Tulsa 
  • National Capital Region which includes the District of Columbia and parts of Virginia and Maryland.

Full Report (PDF)