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US Officials: Corruption Still Threatens Border Security

  • Robert Raffaele

U.S. federal officials say corruption among some law enforcement officers is jeopardizing anti-drug and security patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border. Officials say drug dealers have infiltrated their agencies, often through huge payoffs.

Mexico is winning American praise for its war against illegal drug trafficking. A recent U.S. State Department report cites Mexican President Felipe Calderon's crackdown on drug cartels, and several high-profile arrests.

But U.S. officials say many of those cartels have infiltrated American law enforcement agencies assigned to combat the drug trade.

In Washington March 11, U.S. Senate lawmakers on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee
heard testimony about the problem from top law enforcement officials.

Kevin Perkins of the FBI says the temptation of large bribes from drug dealers is often too much for new hires. He cited the case of one new recruit who became a border inspector in order to traffic drugs.

"Through our collaborative efforts, and year-long investigation, this public official pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to import more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana into the United States, while at the same time receiving more than $5 million in bribe payments," he said. "This individual has since been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison."

James Tomsheck, who is with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Internal Affairs, told Senator Mark Pryor that since October 2004, 103 agents have been arrested on corruption charges. But he said because of budget constraints, only 10 percent of applicants in 2009 were given polygraph exams.

Senator Pryor then asked, "Of those who are polygraphed, what percentage are found unsuitable for service?"

Tomsheck replied, "Approximately 60 percent."

"Sixty percent," said Pryor. "Can we extrapolate from that, if there's 90 or even 85 percent of the folks that are on this chart here, that have not been polygraphed that, maybe 60 percent of them might not pass the polygraph if they took the test?"

"We and others have done that analysis, senator, and have reached the same conclusion," Tomsheck answered.

Tomscheck says his agency would need an additional 50 examiners to reach its goal of giving all applicants polygraph tests.

U.S. officials say corruption also raises concerns about terrorists exploiting security lapses along either the Canadian or Mexican border.

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