The U.S. Customs Service, in a report to Congress this week (2/16), admitted that it was unsure of just how pervasive the problem of corruption in its ranks had become as illicit drugs continue to pour over the border.
"The large amounts of illegal drugs that pass through U.S. Customs land, sea and air ports of entry and the enormous amount of money at the disposal of drug traffickers to corrupt law enforcement personnel place Customs and its employees at great risk to (sic) corruption" the report said.
The U.S. Customs Service, which monitors points of entry to and departure from the U.S. has over 12,000 agents in the field. According to the New York Times, eight Customs agents have been convicted of taking bribes from drug traffickers in the past ten years, but the report indicated that the agency's internal investigations have not kept up with demand, and that it is likely that much corruption that does occur goes unnoticed.
The report pointed to a "long history of strife and infighting" between the agency's investigative unit and its internal affairs division, which has had "a debilitating effect on their (internal affairs officers') ability to perform their jobs diligently." The agency also announced that the head of their IA division, Homer J. Williams, would be replaced this week and replaced by former federal prosecutor William A. Keefer. Williams had been under investigation for allegedly tipping off another Customs agent that she was under investigation by his division.
The report was compiled by the Treasury Department, and is not yet available to the public. A spokesman for the Customs Service told The Week Online that the report suggests that corruption is not occurring systemically, but rather in isolated incidents. The report's main concern, according to Customs is the service's "vulnerability to corruption." When asked whether the it was Customs' opinion that corruption in its ranks could be kept under control, given improvements in its internal affairs division, he answered "yes."
But the vulnerability described in the report is endemic to the Drug War, as according to the Times, more than 17 million cargo shipments are processed each year, and corruption is often a simple matter of waving a specific car or truck through a check point, nothing different than is done with countless other vehicles day after day on the border.