Report Finds DHS Terrible At Keeping Track Of Agents' Badges And Guns

from the shrugs-of-official-indifference dept

Not really sure why we’re putting the Department of Homeland Security in charge of securing anything.

Between fiscal years 2014 and 2016, the Department of Homeland Security personnel lost a total of 2,142 highly sensitive assets — 228 firearms; 1,889 badges; and 25 secure immigration stamps.

That’s from the latest Inspector General’s report [PDF] on DHS components’ ability to secure items that might wreak havoc — ranging from inappropriate access to multiple deaths — if left improperly secured. This includes current presidential faves CBP and ICE — both DHS components.

The bad news is it’s good news:

Although this represents a slight improvement from our last audit, more than half of the lost items we reviewed (65 of 115) revealed that component personnel did not follow policy or used poor judgment when safeguarding these assets.

The IG should probably not expect more year-to-year improvements, no matter how slight.

In these cases, components did not always hold personnel accountable nor did they receive remedial training for failing to safeguard these sensitive assets.

And I’m not kidding about loose components causing death. The report points to a 2015 robbery where something ICE didn’t secure led to exactly this.

Even with new controls designed to strengthen the security of sensitive assets, lost or stolen Federal firearms continue to be used to commit serious crimes. For instance, a media article reported a September 2015 robbery in which an attacker killed a man with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) firearm that was stolen from an unattended vehicle. The ICE agent failed to properly secure the weapon inside the vehicle in a high crime area.

ICE in particular seems particularly careless with firearms.

Two off duty ICE officers left their firearms unsecured and unattended in backpacks while on a beach in Puerto Rico. When the officers returned the bags were gone.

An ICE officer left his firearm, badge, and credential unsecured in his hotel room while on vacation. As he slept, his overnight guest stole his belongings.

But take heart, those of you concerned about the border being overrun by non-US citizens. The CBP is just as terrible.

A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer left his backpack containing his wallet and government badge in an unlocked public gym locker. When he returned, his belongings were gone.

A CBP officer left his firearm in a bag at a friend’s house. When he returned 2 days later, the gun could not be located.

A CBP officer left his firearm and other law enforcement equipment in an unlocked vehicle overnight. The following day he realized his firearm and two magazines were no longer in the vehicle.

Actually, it appears CBP has been asking ICE to hold its beer, in terms of responsible weapons handling.

At a CBP regional armory, 208 firearms could not be physically located. The property custodian researched the situation, and approximately 2 weeks later provided documentation of the actual physical locations for each firearm, which included various lockers and storage vaults across CBP’s field offices.


At a CBP office, the property custodian was unable to immediately locate firearms from the inventory. After searching the facility, the property custodian discovered the firearms in a random file cabinet, stored haphazardly in boxes.

Yes, one CBP office was utilizing a gun filing system (using an actual file cabinet) that resembled just one of several horrifying finds in an episode of Hoarders.

Worse than the DHS’s gun handling was its badge handling. Nearly 2,000 badges were unaccounted for, which means any number of people could be roaming around impersonating government agents. A couple of badge flashes from a 100% legitimate badge (in terms of origin, not current carrier) can help the holder obtain access to off-limits areas and/or personal identifying information on citizens/non-citizens, and otherwise abuse a borrowed position of power. On top of the incalculable costs, there’s the tax dollars involved in replacing them at $40-75 a pop.

Things won’t improve if the DHS doesn’t start taking this more seriously. More than half of the cases reviewed by the IG ended with nothing more than a letter of reprimand… at the most. In 22 of the 65 cases reviewed, no disciplinary action at all was taken.

And these disciplinary actions will need to be preceded by rigid, standardized policies on handling of sensitive items. In addition, the DHS will actually need to establish a credible tracking system. The items tallied by the IG may only be the tip of the iceberg. As it notes in its report, it was unable to obtain enough documentation on nearly one-quarter of the items reviewed to determine whether the losses were due to careless handling.

These are the people securing our borders and playing an integral part in our national security directives. And yet they’re leaving guns in unattended backpacks and leaving badges behind in restaurants and amusement parks. And the DHS doesn’t consider this to be enough of a problem to handle with meaningful punishments or consistent policies and reporting.

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Comments on “Report Finds DHS Terrible At Keeping Track Of Agents' Badges And Guns”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

‘a slight improvement’ – is a nice way of saying they are still huge fsck ups.

‘his overnight guest stole his belongings’ – read as hooker.

‘no disciplinary action’ – I think we might have a lead on why they don’t improve.

DHS is protecting us!!!
The problem is in exchange we are also protecting DHS from accountability.

DHS has a hard job, blah blah blah blah blah.
DHS agents are unhappy with the bad public perception.
These are always isolated incidents, because they refuse to see they flow from a broken system.

They have an important job, yet somehow we can’t seem to demand they take it seriously.
They are arming bad actors.
They are giving them badges they can use for bad things.
They somehow think they don’t have to do what most of us would consider basic steps to secure important things.

We need to demand much more.
They talk about how DHS is our first line of protection, and we get Paul Blart Mall Cop.
In trying to protect the image of DHS, they are giving cover to those who take actions that tarnish the image, in a nice self feeding cycle that makes DHS a laughing stock.

We need to demand more, not just assume that the system works. How many more examples do we need before we demand better? Perhaps if we flipped the normal talking points and said ‘if you let DHS screw up the terrorists will win!’ we’d get better results. The we can’t punish DHS or the terrorists will win narrative has failed us.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

“This includes current presidential faves CBP and ICE — both DHS components.”

For those who complained when I pointed out the site is quite a bit far left of center.

EVERYTHING in the article happened with President OBAMA in charge. All of it on his watch.

But the digs at President Trump just *had* to be included – I only quoted the first of them above.

She lost. Get over it. We had horrible choices, we picked the lesser psychotic.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Have a funny vote for your kneejerk reaction/’Look, a distraction!’.

On an article that mentions the current president once, indirectly and in passing, you focus on that single mention rather than the ‘Oh yeah, by the way two major government agencies can’t be bothered to track their badges and guns, and seems completely indifferent to this issue’ parts, pulling both a ‘But Obama!’ and ‘But Hillary!’ in the process.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Two, actually, if you count the comment about CBP.

Not a distraction. If anything, the “in passing” slam at the current President was the distraction.

Yeah, yeah, it’s all Trump’s fault. He got the report this bit is all about what, maybe a few days before it went public?

A report of hundreds of Federally-Issued guns and badges that occurred BEFORE he was President, and that he didn’t instantly do … WHAT? Fire every (pensioned!) federal employee at ICE and CBP? Say “I take full responsibility!” (and then pretend it never happened, as anyone paying attention has heard and seen before from previous presidents from both sides of the aisle)?

Yeah, it had to be pointed out in this debacle that we have a new president that isn’t a Democrat.

What’s next, blame him for Fast & Furious?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Please be considerate of your fellow commentors and clean up the straw after you get done whaling away at the strawman you erected.

That out of the way, mind pointing out where exactly the article blames Trump for anything? Simply pointing out that he’s a big fan of the two agencies doesn’t cut it unless you want to say that that’s simply not true, and as such please point out where the article says ‘Oh, and by the way this is totally Trump’s fault’.

In your rush to ‘defend’ him from ‘unfair’ attacks you seem to have jumped straight to the point where mentioning him counts, which is setting the bar low enough that you’d need professional excavation equipment to get down to it.

TripMN says:

Re: Re:

One thing most people should know is that the non-White House parts of the federal bureaucracy don’t change when the president changes. If there are reports of them screwing up under the last president, they are probably still doing it under the current one… its just the OIG reports haven’t been compiled yet. Stating the fact that the current president seems to adore them just underscores that they probably aren’t under any scrutiny to fix what has been and most likely continues to be a problem.

But you knew that, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sure, as does most everyone.

However – there is this thing in human nature commonly referred to as chilling effect, it probably has other names as well, where employees tend to anticipate the desires of their employer before being pressured into doing this or that due to the not incorrect assumption that their job is on the line.

But you knew that.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Total mountain out of a molehill

Bah, I mean it makes perfect sense that there’s little to none(more the latter than the former) punishments being handed out, it’s not like guns and badges could ever be used for nefarious means, like, oh I dunno, impersonating government officials to rob someone at badgepoint or access secure information/areas. Really, who could possibly want to do that?

And guns just disappearing such that there’s no record of where they are? What’s the worst that can happen?

The agencies are right to avoid spending much/any resources combating these ‘problems’, as they really are total non-issues and they have much higher priorities, like demanding social media information, and running a poorly/non-secured hotline for people to use to stick it to people they don’t like.

Anonymous Coward says:

Civil forfeiture abuse makes this even worse

By abusing civil forfeiture on a bulk scale, authorized government agents have created the perception that people who flash a badge can take your property with no practical recourse to the non-government party (whether citizen, legal immigrant, illegal immigrant, etc.). With that perception in place, it becomes very easy for unauthorized personnel using a stolen badge to rob people claiming "civil forfeiture" and it may well go unchallenged/unreported, because police robbing people is normal and legal, and this person had a police-like badge, so the victim assumes this is just more of the same.

Anonymous Coward says:

discretionary justice

The judicial system with harsh penalties for even minor infractions, their discretionary application and faulty detection and reporting is ripe for blackmail, fraud and eventual collapse. This is what happened in France in 1789, in 1917 in Russia, in 1945 in Germany, in 1989 in Eastern Europe.
So, US people, mind you – those pitchforks are really uncomfortable to fall upon, so maybe try to solve the issues before it comes to that. For everybody’s sake.

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