The Tar Pit

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More Bush Administration failures in border enforcement

Following up an earlier story about how, whether through negligence, incompetence, or premeditation the Bush Administration is strangling America's border enforcemen:

Infighting Cited at Homeland Security
Squabbles Blamed for Reducing Effectiveness
John Mintz - Washington Post - February 2, 2005

The department's investigative arm, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has operated under severe financial crisis for more than a year -- to the point that use of agency vehicles and photocopying were at times banned. The problem stems from funding disputes with other DHS agencies.


"DHS is still a compilation of 22 agencies that aren't integrated into a cohesive whole," said its recently departed inspector general, Clark Kent Ervin, who released many critical reports and was not reappointed after a falling-out with Ridge. Asked for examples of ineffectiveness, he replied: "I don't know where to start. . . . I've never seen anything like it."

Ervin cited a report from his office last month that DHS immigration inspectors had continued to let dozens of people using stolen foreign passports enter the United States -- even after other governments had notified the agency of the passport numbers. Using stolen passports is a well-known tactic of al Qaeda operatives.

Even when immigration officials realized someone had entered the United States on a stolen passport, they did not routinely notify sister agencies that track illegal immigrants, the report said.

When officials made missteps such as this, Ridge rarely intervened, Ervin said. "Tom Ridge is a prince of a man, but he's not a tough guy," he said.


Several officials described the undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, former representative Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), as a consensus-builder who had difficulty demanding an end to the turf fights. Especially troublesome was a personality conflict between the affable Hutchinson and one of his subordinates, Robert C. Bonner, the aggressive head of Customs and Border Protection, whose airport and seaport inspectors investigate people and cargo.

"There were knock-down, drag-out meetings every day" between leaders in some parts of the department, said Loy, who added that "management styles can pour gasoline" on such arguments. But he said the fights are now resolved.

Asked about conflicts with Bonner, Hutchinson said: "I'd be enormously disappointed if I didn't have agency leaders who leaned forward and fought for their agencies." But, he added, "people who work under me know I make decisions."

Increasingly, so does the American public.