The agents were sentenced to 10- and 11-year prison terms.
The leadership of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents the agency’s non-supervisory personnel, voted a no-confidence resolution against the chief in April 2007. It won the unanimous endorsement of all 100 of the NBPC’s national leadership.
The union later accused the chief of trying to “intimidate” field agents to discredit the vote, saying he “willfully and blatantly” violated federal guidelines by sending a top aide to seek a “show of hands” among field agents for those who supported the chief in the wake of the no-confidence vote — knowing the agents would not risk retaliation by publicly opposing the chief.
The letter outlines what it called a “disconnect” between Chief Aguilar and front-line agents and cites a “growing frustration” over the chief’s “misguided policies and politics.”
It criticized a new fence along 28 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, saying taxpayers had spent more than $20 million on a project that “has not been fully functional for a single day since we were forced to accept delivery by your office.” It said that while the fence, known as Project 28, was supposed to provide a blueprint for effective border security, field agents had no input into its development and Chief Aguilar ignored warnings that it had no chance to live up to expectations.
“The Department of Homeland Security and CBP went overboard hyping this project and you avoided political risk by remaining silent while we were being force-fed inadequate equipment,” it said. “Where was your voice of advocacy to make sure we got what we needed to successfully carry out our mission?”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded in a report last year that it did not know what criteria had been used to accept the $20.6 million project near Sasabe, Ariz., and that the fence did not meet expectations and was not “the ultimate system” that had been envisioned. It also said field agents had not been consulted prior to its construction, and that Border Patrol executives in Washington slowed the project down.
The GAO said the scheduled 2008 deployment of about 100 miles of virtual fence in Arizona and Texas had been delayed until the end of 2011. Its future in the Obama administration is uncertain, because Mr. Obama and other Democrats have criticized the plan, although the president-elect earlier voted for it.
Mr. Robertson described the project as a “first step” in gaining operational control of the border, adding that while it had not fully met operational needs, it proved that the concept of linked sensor towers, ground-based radar and camera systems was solid, and demonstrated that work could begin toward developing a system to meet the needs of agents on the ground.
He also said Chief Aguilar had argued “uncompromisingly that the eventual deployed operational system had to first and foremost work for frontline agents in a way that made their jobs easier, safer and more effective.” He said the project now includes the “full participation and input of Border Patrol agents.”
During a House subcommittee hearing last year, Chief Aguilar acknowledged that senior Border Patrol officials had not consulted with the field agents who would use the system before it was installed. He told two House subcommittees that future projects would include increased input from field personnel.
In their letter, the agents also accused the chief of making “radical changes” at the Border Patrol Academy to meet a presidential mandate of recruiting, hiring and training 6,000 new agents by the end of Mr. Bush’s term.
They said that when the chief first proposed the idea of an altered academy, top Border Patrol executives unanimously opposed it but he ignored the “substantive misgivings expressed by your senior field leaders” and went ahead with the changes without further consultation.
“You supported the transformation of one of the best law enforcement academies in the country into a diploma mill,” they said, adding that the academy was altered and shortened to produce “more agents, not better agents.”
“Many criminals were able to enter on duty here in Tucson because of the sloppy hiring practices implemented by your office as you strived to meet the political goal of hiring thousands of agents,” the letter said. “Again, advocacy took a back seat to political appeasement. We are unsure to this day if we have successfully weeded out all the criminals you permitted to infiltrate our organization.”View Entire Story
Jerry Seper is the investigative editor for The Washington Times.
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