CBP Employees Obtain New Accountability Shield With 'Security Agency' Designation

from the everyone's-pr dept

Our nation’s border security agencies want to be national security agencies. ICE and CBP both made it clear they expected to be treated as Intelligence Community equals and given a seat at the grown-ups’ surveillance table. They got their wish. Trump’s “extreme vetting” wishes opened the door for the agencies’ access to NSA collections late last year.

The CBP’s addition to the long list of Intelligence Community agencies gives it another layer of opacity. As Ken Klippenstein reports for The Nation, being added to the OPM’s list of exemptions will make it even more difficult to obtain information via FOIA requests.

On Friday, the Trump administration quietly designated the entire Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, which polices US borders, as a “Security Agency,” according to an internal memo obtained by The Nation.

This puts CBP on the same playing field as secretive agencies like the FBI, DEA, and ATF. While ostensibly only concerned with border protection, the CBP’s reach has been extended by its access to NSA collections and its personnel more insulated from accountability by this designation.

The memo states: “I am pleased to announce CBP has been designated as a Security Agency under Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) official Data Release Policy, effective immediately. Previously, only frontline law enforcement, investigative, or intelligence positions held this designation. This policy change now protects all CBP employee names from subsequent responses to Freedom of Information Act requests or other public disclosures for CGP employee data.”

Every CBP employee is now shielded from public scrutiny, no matter how much “security” work they’re actually involved in. The memo obtained by The Nation came from a CBP contractor who blew the whistle on this bullshit designation. According to the unnamed source, they came forward to inform the public about an “absurd” designation that gives CBP employees a new layer of opacity they haven’t earned.

The memo says this new designation is a reaction to supposed “doxing” of CBP employees via a Twitter account that may have been run by an OPM employee. But it wasn’t really “doxing.” The information released was pulled from publicly-accessible OPM databases. If this is the case, this doesn’t seem to justify unilaterally declaring CBP employees to be more equal than other federal employees not fortunate enough to work for one tasked with bringing President Trump’s anti-immigration fantasies to life.

CBP employees aren’t special. And they’re only “security” personnel in the loosest sense of the word. Just because they’re involved in border security doesn’t mean any exposure of their personal info would result in decreased employee safety or harm intelligence gathering. For that matter, the CBP isn’t really in the intelligence gathering business and it’s not known for operating extensive investigations utilizing undercover personnel who could suffer from being “outed” by publicly-available info. This is just opacity creep — one that spreads from agency to agency like black mold. And it will make holding the agency accountable for its actions even more difficult when the public isn’t able to pinpoint who’s behind the latest string of abuses.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Do we really need so many agencies to do essentially the same thing?

Not really.

Why don’t we roll them all into 1 or 2 agencies and save a ton of overhead?

Momentum. Once you have a bureaucracy in place for a significant amount of time, shrinking or outright eliminating that bureaucracy becomes a hellish process.

Seegras (profile) says:

2 million top-secret clearances

Before Snowdens revelations there were 2 million people with top secret clearances in the US.

Because idiots with clearances keep grading stuff secret, which leads to more people who need clearances to get their work done, which leads to even more people grading stuff secret.

I’d guess it’s now 3 million clearances, and this move will add a few more idiots to the mess.

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