Drivers with terrorism and drug-smuggling ties were cleared by the United States for “expedited border crossing” under a free-trade agreement created to facilitate commercial traffic between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
As inconceivable as this may seem, it’s documented in a federal audit released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General. It says that the DHS agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), created after 9/11 to protect the country from terrorists, narcotics and illegal aliens for years compromised border security by failing to exclude high risk drivers from the program known as Free and Secure Trade (FAST).
Under FAST, participants who meet certain eligibility criteria are considered low risk and receive expedited border processing between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. The goal is to ensure security and safety of inter border commerce while enhancing the economic prosperity of each country. Ideally, this enables CBP to focus security efforts and inspections on commerce that is “high or unknown risk” while ensuring the flow of legitimate, “low-risk commerce.”
In 2011 more than 80,100 drivers participated in the FAST program, according the DHS IG report. Nearly 70,000 were enrolled in FAST along the U.S.-Canada border and over 11,500 along the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the program, each one is supposed to meet a thorough security clearance that assures there’s no risk in letting the individual travel freely in and out of the country with cargo.
Instead, “high risk drivers” were actively enrolled in the program, exposing CBP to increased “risk of compromised border security,” the IG said. Investigators found that, at least half a dozen cleared drivers for years had connections to terrorism and drug smuggling operations. It gets scarier; it took federal officials five years to realize it! At least two dozen others had criminal, immigration or agricultural violations.
More than a decade after the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, Americans may wonder how this could happen. The nutshell version, as per the IG, is that CBP didn’t bother to check the various law enforcement databases to assure the drivers were low risk. Additionally, our not-so-friendly neighbor to the south doesn’t bother vetting FAST candidates so the U.S. has no way to determine if there’s a criminal history.
This is quite risky, considering Mexico is the origin of most of the human and drug smuggling into the U.S. and home to a drug war that has claimed about 50,000 lives since 2006, the IG points out. The IG goes on to state the obvious; benefits granted to FAST participants “make the program attractive to drug smugglers.”
While loads of drugs and illegal immigrants slip into the U.S. through the southern border, the Homeland Security agency created after 9/11 to protect the nation from such threats boasts about intercepting counterfeit perfume and unsafe hair dryers.
Incredible but true. The huge agency—Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—created after the 2001 attacks to protect the country from terrorists, narcotics and illegal aliens is busy seizing hair dryers and perfume. In separate press releases this month, the agency brags about confiscating $51 million worth of fake perfume in fiscal year 2011 and more than 12,000 “dangerous hair dryers” at ports on opposite coasts of the country.
Americans should sleep easier at night knowing that CBP busted a ring that largely sold a “Sex in the City” brand of perfume named after a popular cable television series. These sorts of counterfeit perfumes are a form of theft from the brand owner and protecting American intellectual property is a priority for CBP, the agency says in its announcement. In addition to the economic harm, the agency further says, counterfeit perfumes are also often contaminated with unknown chemicals that can cause serious injury.
The “unsafe” hair dryer offenders were recently apprehended at ports in Los Angeles and Miami. They look like regular blow dryers and come in pink, red and a zebra print, according to pictures included in the federal announcement. The dryers were confiscated because they were determined to constitute a “substantial product hazard” under U.S. law for failing to have adequate immersion protection. They were previously identified through a nationwide targeting operation by a special CBP unit dedicated to such matters.
An agency spokesman explained the importance of such missions, saying that the vigilance of CBP officers at ports of entry will help ensure that products like hair dryers are safe for consumers. Keeping those defective blow dryers from reaching store shelves is hardly a cause for celebration at an agency that’s charged with guarding the nation’s borders and ports of entry from real threats.
CBP was created after 9/11 as the unified border agency by combining the inspectional and border forces of U.S. Customs, U.S. Immigration, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services and the U.S. Border Patrol. The idea was to create a powerful force that would effectively protect America’s borders.
Instead, CBP has been rocked by numerous scandals involving corrupt agents at airports, seaports and checkpoints along the southern border. They include officers working in different parts of the Mexican border accepting bribes from human and drug smugglers and an officer at a Florida airport charged with assisting a drug smuggling ring by tapping into sensitive federal databases. Officers throughout the agency have been charged with trafficking drugs, taking money for migrant smuggling, witness tampering and embezzlement.
In the meantime heavily armed Mexican drug cartels have transformed the southern border into a war zone and record amounts of narcotics are entering the U.S., according to various federal and news reports. The crisis is so severe that a border-state congressman who chairs a Homeland Security committee held a special hearing last May to address the matter.