Croatia becomes 40th country that can travel visa-free to U.S.
Internal report excoriates border officials for creating their own security teams
An internal Homeland Security Department review has found immigration and border patrol executives diverted agents, money and government vehicles to create their own personal security details without any legislative authority or proof of safety risks.
The department's internal watchdog, the inspector general, reported the "questionable" security details cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and quoted field agents who said their bosses created them specifically for convenience and not to deter threats.
"Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) - have created their own internal authorizations for executive protection details, staffed them, and funded them, without clear legal authority," the report released Thursday evening said.
"Because these security details incur substantial monetary and personnel costs, provide transportation and logistical services not necessarily tied to any demonstrated security concern, and are often authorized by those receiving the services, these details give the appearance to some observers of being more related to executive convenience and status than protection," it added.
The report singled out a former Obama administration executive who oversaw ICE for repeatedly traveling to her home city for lengthy visits, assembling an official government security team from the local office and thwarting criminal case work.
"The former Director traveled to her home city of Dallas more frequently than any other city, at times for six-day stays, requiring the ICE field office to divert agents from working cases for visits which would last, on average, six days," the report noted.
"It's all about [the Director's] convenience. Nights, weekends, we have to send agents out. We're just treated like we are expendable," one agent was quoted as telling the inspector general.
The internal review found no evidence that the creation of the security details were authorized by Congress or were required by imminent security threats. "No witness could identify any specific, credible threat to the previous ICE Director, either historically or recently," the report noted.
Homeland Security officials, however, disputed the report's conclusions, stating the details were justified because both ICE and CBP leaders have "been the subject of a number of incidents of harassing and menacing behavior" that ranged from threats of being killed or having their spouses raped to threats that their grandchildren would be molested.
The revelations come during a larger debate over government travel prompted by recent revelations that Trump administration officials requested government jets or other conveniences for what appeared to be family or personal travel.