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U.S. agents accused of aiding Islamist scheme
Question of the Day
A criminal investigations report says several U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees are accused of aiding Islamic extremists with identification fraud and of exploiting the visa system for personal gain.
The confidential 2006 USCIS report said that despite the severity of the potential security breaches, most are not investigated "due to lack of resources" in the agency's internal affairs department.
"Two District Adjudications Officers are allegedly involved with known (redacted) Islam terrorist members," said the internal document obtained by The Washington Times.
The group "was responsible for numerous robberies and used the heist money to fund terrorist activities. The District Adjudications Officers made numerous DHS database queries to track (Alien)-File movement and check on the applicants' status for (redacted) members and associates."
According to the document, other potential security failures include reports that:
Employees are sharing detailed information on internal security measures with people outside the agency.
A Lebanese citizen bribed an immigration officer with airline tickets for visa benefits.
A USCIS officer in Harlington, Texas, sold immigration documents for $10,000 to as many as 20 people.
A USCIS employee, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said many of the complaints in the multipage document are as many as three years old.
"Terrorists need immigration documents to embed in our society and work here without raising alarm bells," said the employee.
"Whether through bribing an immigration officer, an employee with the department of motor vehicles, or utilizing highly effective counterfeit documents produced by the Mexican drug cartels. They are always looking for that documentation to live amongst us."
Bill Wright, spokesman with USCIS, said that he could not comment on any ongoing investigations but that USCIS "takes all internal allegations seriously."
"The investigations that are referenced are ongoing investigations that we can not comment on," Mr. Wright told The Times. "We take all of these allegations seriously, and we are acting on them. For anyone to suggest that they are ignored is blatantly wrong."
In March, USCIS established the Office of Security and Integrity to investigate internal corruption.
"We'd like to clean up our own house first," Mr. Wright said.
The office would add 65 investigators and internal-review specialists, for a total of 245 employees and contract employees, but none of the new 65 vacancies approved in March has been filled.
Last week, The Times disclosed a confidential DEA report substantiating the link between Islamic extremists and Mexican drug cartels. The 2005 DEA report states that Middle Eastern operatives, in U.S. sleeper cells, are working in conjunction with the cartels to fund terrorist organizations overseas. Several lawmakers promised congressional hearings based on the information disclosed in the DEA documents.
The DEA report also stated that Middle Eastern extremists living in the U.S. — who speak Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew fluently — are posing as Hispanic nationals.
USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez in March told Congress that he could not establish how many terror suspects or persons of special interest have been granted immigration benefits.
"While USCIS has in place strong background check and adjudication suspension policies to avoid granting status to known terror risks, it is possible for USCIS to grant status to an individual before a risk is known, or when the security risk is not identified through standard background checks," said a statement provided to lawmakers.
"USCIS is not in a position to quantify all cases in which this may have happened. Recognizing that there may be presently known terror risks in the ranks of those who have obtained status previously."
Mr. Gonzalez's response, along with the 2006 USCIS document obtained by The Times, show a "pattern of national security failures that have put the nation at risk," the agency source said.
Another investigation involved more than seven USCIS and Immigration and Custom's Enforcement (ICE) employees — including special agents and senior district managers — who were moving contraband via "diplomatic pouches" to the United States from China.
ICE — the original investigating agency — downgraded the criminal investigation to a managerial problem, and the case was never prosecuted, a source close to the investigation said.
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