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September 2021


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Tag: Homeland Security

Ex-Homeland Security Agent Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Investigative Records

Steve Neavling 

A former Homeland Security agent who conspired to falsify investigative records pleaded guilty Thursday, and new evidence suggests he faked the documents at the urging of his supervisor, the Associated Press reports.

Wayne Ball was a special agent with Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office in McAllen, Texas, when he falsified records in a probe into a customs officer accused of assisting in drug and human trafficking, the AP wrote.

Prosecutors declined to identify the supervisor but an investigation is underway.

Under a plea agreement, Ball is required to cooperate with the prosecutors.

The case involves Ball backdating falsified reports to show investigative work had been done when it had not.


Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to Stay for President Obama’s Second Term

Janet Napolitano

Steve Neavling

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano plans to hold her position for President Obama’s second term, Fox News reports.

Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, is expected to play a key role in helping Obama craft a plan for sweeping reforms on illegal immigration laws, Fox News wrote.

Napolitano was expected to maintain the post.

“The Department of Homeland Security faces many challenges in maintaining its ability to protect the American people,” said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas. “From the threat of cyber attacks to securing our border and transportation systems, DHS plays a critical role in developing and executing domestic policy.”


Homeland Security Special Agent Finds Lost Family Photos While on Vacation

Steve Neavling

David Nieland, a Homeland Security special agent, was on vacation at the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina when he spotted a camera memory card along his hike, the Huffington Post reports.

Turns out, Nieland found a card full of family photos that have been lost for more than thre years.

The Huffington Post wrote that Nieland tracked down the elementary school of one of the photographed girls because of a unique insignia she was wearing. He reunited the family with some priceless family photos.

Among the treasurers in the memory card – photos of the Fischer family’s grandmother, who died a year earlier of cancer.

“She didn’t like to have her picture made, so we don’t have many of her when she got cancer,” Ashley Fisher, Mackenzie’s mother, said.

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Border Patrol Stops Offering Language Interpreters to Local Law Enforcement Agencies

By Steve Neavling

When law enforcement agencies need help translating a language, they often call the U.S. Border Patrol for help.

But under a new decree issued by the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol agents won’t be used as interpreters for local authorities, the Huffington Post reports.

The idea, Border Patrol officials said, is to keep the agency focused on protecting the borders.

“The new guidance related to requests for translation services helps further focus CBP efforts on its primary mission to secure our nation’s borders.” a statement by Customs and Border Protection said. “CBP remains committed to assisting our law enforcement partners in their enforcement efforts.”

Immigration rights groups have long opposed the Border Patrol’s involvement, saying people were being arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally, the Huffington Post wrote.

Homeland Security Department Ranked Most Unsatisfying Workplace Among Federal Agencies

Steve Neavling

Working has its drawbacks for anyone.

But among federal agencies, the Department of Homeland Security was ranked the most unsatisfying workplace, U.S. News reports.

The survey, “The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,” ranked DHS last for effective leadership, teamwork, support for diversity and training and development, U.S. News wrote.

DHS employs 240,000 people.

Where was the best place to work? The National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Seems exploring space leads to a better work environment than chasing terrorists, the U.S. News reported.

Homeland Security Loaning Drones to Local Police at Increasing Rate

Steve Neavling 

A North Dakota farm is not where you’d expect to see a Predator drone.

But Homeland Security loaned the drones – up to $34 million in value – to local authorities who wanted to spy on a farmer who was engaged in a standoff with police.

Since the August 2011 incident, the Washington Guardian reports, Homeland Security has increasingly been lending its unarmed drones to local police.

Some worry that the use of drones amounts to domestic spying and the militarization of local police forces, the Guardian explained.

Homeland Security plans to begin helping local authorities buy smaller drone-style machines, the Guardian reported.


Editorial: Homeland Security Grants Misspent, Steered Away from Terrorism

New York Times 

It was no surprise that a fierce budget hawk like Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, pounced on ridiculous grants doled out by the Department of Homeland Security supposedly to help local police and fire departments prepare for terrorist attacks. Mr. Coburn’s recent report on the department’s decade-long, $7 billion program, called the Urban Areas Security Initiative, offers many depressing examples of locally misspent money.

There was an armored car in New Hampshire whose duties included patrolling the annual pumpkin festival. Car-bomb barriers and surveillance cameras, purchased by authorities in Peoria, Ariz., to protect spring-training fans. License plate reading machines in Louisiana used to track car thieves. An $88,000 truck-mounted, piercingly loud device for crowd control in Pittsburgh. And $1,000 fees for first responders to attend a “zombie Apocalypse” demonstration at a counterterrorism conference in California to learn how to handle chaotic events, with actors playing the living dead.

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Homeland Security Has Spent $430 Million on Radios Its Employees Don’t Know How to Use

By Theodoric Meyer

Getting the agencies responsible for national security to communicate better was one of the main reasons the Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But according to a recent report from the department’s inspector general, one aspect of this mission remains far from accomplished.

DHS has spent $430 million over the past nine years to provide radios tuned to a common, secure channel to 123,000 employees across the country. Problem is, no one seems to know how to use them.

Only one of 479 DHS employees surveyed by the inspector general’s office was actually able to use the common channel, according to the report. Most of those surveyed — 72 percent — didn’t even know the common channel existed. Another 25 percent knew the channel existed but weren’t able to find it; 3 percent were able to find an older common channel, but not the current one.

The investigators also found that more than half of the radios did not have the settings for the common channel programmed into them. Only 20 percent of radios tested had all the correct settings.

The radios are supposed to help employees of Customs and Border Patrol, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, and other agencies with DHS communicate during crises, as well as normal operations.

DHS officials did not immediately respond to questions from ProPublica about what effect the radio problems could have on how the agency handles an emergency.

The $430 million paid for radio infrastructure and maintenance as well as the actual radios.

In a response letter to the report, Jim H. Crumpacker, the Department of Homeland Security’s liaison between the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general, wrote that DHS had made “significant strides” in improving emergency communications since 2003. But he acknowledged that DHS “has had some challenges in achieving Department-wide interoperable communications goals.”

The recent inspector general’s report is the latest in a string of critical assessments DHS has received on its efforts to improve communication between federal, state and local agencies. The Government Accountability Office reported in 2007 that the Department of Homeland Security had “generally not achieved” this goal.

DHS has assigned a blizzard of offices and committees to oversee its radio effort since 2003, which the inspector general’s report claimed had “hindered DHS’ ability to provide effective oversight.”

Also, none of the entities “had the authority to implement and enforce their recommendations,” the report concluded. Tanya Callender, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said the current office overseeing the effort hadn’t been given the authority to force agencies to use the common channel or even to provide instructions for programming the radios.

The inspector general recommended DHS standardize its policies regarding radios, which DHS agreed to do. But it rejected a second recommendation that it overhaul the office overseeing the radios to give it more authority.

“DHS believes that it has already established a structure with the necessary authority to ensure” that its various agencies can communicate, Crumpacker wrote in his response letter.

ProPublica is a non-profit investigative journalism website.