Combating Border Corruption
Because of its potential impact on our national security, corruption along our borders is one our top investigative priorities, and often includes the use of multi-agency task forces.
Slide: Border official with dog checking cars.
Special Agent Keith Byers, FBI Chicago
Border corruption has become more and more of a concern for law enforcement, especially after September 11, because there’s so much more heightened awareness to terrorism issues, national security issues. A lot of time, people don’t really think about border corruption beyond illegal drug smuggling. But the FBI has started to expand the emphasis that we’re placing on border corruption—in terms of border corruption facilitating other crimes and criminal activity. You have terrorist organizations that can be engaged in drug trafficking, so that’s a way for them to raise revenue for their organizations. You’re talking in terms of terrorists being smuggled into the United States–if they have a corrupt person that could facilitate them crossing into the United States, it would be significantly easier for them to enter the country. Or you talk about weapons of mass destruction—it’s always a bad thing if someone smuggling drugs into the country, but it’s a very, very bad thing if someone’s smuggling a terrorist, foreign counterintelligence officer, or weapons of mass destruction components into the United States. So because of those things, we’re beginning to place more and more emphasis on the whole issue of border corruption.
Slide: Cars at U.S./Mexican border crossing.
So the Border Corruption Initiative…one of the cornerstones of that strategy is the use of Border Corruption Task Forces. The FBI historically has made use of task forces, especially in the last 10 years or so, where we’ve tried to combine our forces with other federal, state, and local agencies…to combine our resources, our knowledge, our experience, our expertise, among the different agencies to work together to deal with different crime problems.
Slide: Pedestrian walkway between U.S. and Mexico.
Some of the most common task forces that the American public always hears about are gang task forces and drug task forces. What we’ve started doing is expanding that same concept to the issue of border corruption.
Slide: Border fence between U.S. and Mexico.
Our federal, state, and local partners are vital to all our task forces, whether it’s in San Diego, Tucson, or El Paso. And when you talk about state and local law enforcement, I’m talking about sheriff’s deputies, police officers, state police—those are people that generally have long ties to the community, that they also have associates that are driving patrol cars every day, they’re arresting people everyday, they’re in positions to cultivate sources of information and develop tips. Whereas a police department may not always be in a position to devote 10 or 15 investigators to a particular matter—that’s the function really of what the task force does—because the local police departments are responding to calls for service, calls to help, 911 calls, but the key position they’re in is they’re out there interacting with the community, hearings things, arresting people, talking to people that are in trouble and they’re willing to exchange information sometimes for a reduced sentence. So by the FBI partnering with those same state and local agencies, that information makes it to the task force.
Slide: San Ysidro, CA, border crossing.
The threat that border corruption poses to national security—it’s by far the greatest threat that we’re trying to address. We’re aware of it, we’re devoting resources to it, we’re placing emphasis on it.
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