Review of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Anti-Terrorist Actions

Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General, “Review of CBP Actions Taken to Intercept Suspected Terrorists at U.S. Ports of Entry,” OIG-06-43, June 2006.

Results in Brief:

CBP has improved information sharing capabilities within the organization to smooth the flow of arriving passengers and increase the effectiveness of limited resources at POEs. Earlier, officers at POEs possessed limited information to help them resolve the identities of individuals mistakenly matched to the terrorist watch list, but a current initiative aims to provide supervisors at POEs with much more information to help them positively identify and clear individuals with names similar to those in the terrorist database. CBP procedures are highly prescriptive and withhold from supervisors the authority to make timely and informed decisions regarding the admissibility of individuals who they could quickly confirm are not the suspected terrorist.

As CBP has stepped up its efforts to intercept known and suspected terrorists at ports of entry, traditional missions such as narcotics interdiction and identification of fraudulent immigration documentation have been adversely affected. Recent data indicates a significant decrease over the past few years in the interception of narcotics and the identification of fraudulent immigration documents, especially at airports.

When a watchlisted or targeted individual is encountered at a POE, CBP generates several reports summarizing the incident. Each of these reports provides a different level of detail, and is distributed to a different readership. It is unclear, however, how details of the encounter and the information obtained from the suspected terrorist are disseminated for analysis. This inconsistent reporting is preventing DHS from developing independent intelligence assessments and may be preventing important information from inclusion in national strategic intelligence analyses.

During an encounter with a watchlisted individual, CBP officers at the POE often need to discuss sensitive details about the individual with law enforcement agencies and CBP personnel in headquarters offices. Some case details are classified. Because some CBP officers at POEs have not been granted the necessary security clearance, they are unable to review important information about a watchlisted individual and may not be able to participate with law enforcement agencies in interviews of certain individuals.

To improve the effectiveness of CBP personnel in their mission to prevent known and suspected terrorists from entering the United States, we are recommending that CBP: expand a biometric information collection program to include volunteers who would not normally provide this information when entering the United States; authorize POE supervisors limited discretion to make more timely admissibility determinations; review port of entry staffing models to ensure the current workforce is able to perform the entire range of CBP mission; establish a policy for more consistent reporting to intelligence agencies the details gathered during secondary interviews; and ensure all counterterrorism personnel at POEs are granted an appropriate security clearance.

Posted on August 15, 2006 at 1:19 PM23 Comments


Fraud Guy August 15, 2006 2:01 PM

So basically, common sense is not allowed to be common.
You could argue that you have to screen every time to prevent impersonation of the “cleared” Omar Khan, but with the same people doing the screening every week, they should be able to spot the deception. Unless the “safe” Omar Khan is actually the “terrorist” trying to create a persona in order to commit a devastating attack later.

This reminds me of most top-down systems; they are promoted by the top to garner bonuses, stock price, and votes, but the ones who implement it at the bottom have to struggle with strategic plans that don’t work at the tactical level.

Jimi August 15, 2006 2:21 PM

This shows how difficult a job this is. Plus people trying to get people, drugs or whatever into the country are going to go around hardened points of entry the same as the people crossing the border to pick crops do daily. A better approach is or may be found in local towns and cities with local law enforcement. Local police see everything on routine patrols. I know that where I live, if a lot of new faces show up, people know right away. It’s out of the ordinary, it’s noticed. All homeland security is local. Building higher walls, better fences and longer lists is time consuming. If you want to bring 300 pounds of cocaine into Florida, you don’t take it through customs and hope they miss it. When it does hit the streets, everybody or almost everbody knows about it. It’s well advertised.

Jimi August 15, 2006 2:40 PM

Fraud Guy is on the money. It’s a big top. More paperwork, more orders from above and by the way update yesterdays list and before you throw out the old list make a Xerox copy of it. They should merge DHS with the Postal Service. You could have field intelligence from everywhere and cut the federal bureaucracy in half. Just imagine the amount of mail DHS generates in a day. DHS, it rhymes with UPS. They could make the postal carriers DHS agents, give them 9mm S&W’s and paint the trucks blue, white and orange. I’d feel better knowing the mailman was armed. I have a great mailman though. I think he was in the Navy.

RTB August 15, 2006 3:13 PM

“we are recommending that CBP: expand a biometric information collection program to include volunteers who would not normally provide this information when entering the United States”

So – when I refuse to volunteer my biometric data when aked, does that set off the alarm bells for me to receive special attention ?

moz August 15, 2006 5:58 PM

“Recent data indicates a significant decrease over the past few years in the interception of narcotics and the identification of fraudulent immigration documents” – I read that as meaning that random searches are less effective than before and unknown terrorists, including those who have been incorrectly identified for some reason (perhaps they dastardly changed their name?) are more likely to get through than the used to be. Is that right?

Jimi August 15, 2006 6:44 PM

Yeah bob, but the postal service security protocols are old and well established. It runs a heck of a secure operation. Starting something new from scratch, like a bureaucracy, isn’t easy. It can also fail in strange new ways as we saw in New Orleans after Katrina. And they were expecting that. Who knows what would happen if they weren’t prepared? I’ve seen the postal service in action after a disaster. They can survive just about anything and stay up and running. I don’t have much confidence in DHS. I think it’s more of a republican political contracting scheme than anything else. It just buys services and products and creates paperwork. Five years and one new bureaucracy after 911, the President is saying we aren’t safe, but we’re safer. I’d feel safer if they gave the FBI the money DHS was spending on stuff that turns out to be worthless like much of the Katrina aid turned out to be. That’s just me though.

donncha August 15, 2006 7:05 PM

“Recent data indicates a significant decrease over the past few years in the interception of narcotics and the identification of fraudulent immigration documents, especially at airports.”

So if you ARE a terrorist, best thing to do is get some false immigration papers and it’s now EASIER to get in to the country than it once was.

Your security (tax) dollars at work 😉

Jimi August 15, 2006 8:34 PM

From the dumb law department.
So if you ARE a terrorist, the best thing to do is retreat or surrender. We aren’t aren’t going to retreat or surrender.
Current Pennsylvania law states that when people are attacked or threatened in public, their responsibility is to retreat. In Pennsylvania you have to break the law or retreat. Technically, you have to retreat if confronted by a terrorist. The state senate is working on changing the law. It’s the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Jimi August 15, 2006 8:42 PM

The passengers who took Flight 93 down in Pennsylvania on 9/11 didn’t retreat. They should change Pennsylvania law this coming September 11th.

Anonymous August 16, 2006 4:07 AM


the President is saying we aren’t safe, but we’re safer

“we aren’t safe” = “i still need to take more of your money, freedom, and your children’s (soldiers) lifes away”. And “but we’re safer” = “look how well i already did”.
Wake up; he would say this in any case, no matter how things are going.

Sabina August 16, 2006 4:48 AM

I am more than worried.

These recommendations aim to make ever more data available to ever more organizations and people. All changes since 9/11 do. In the end all agencies will ‘think’ and act like one. Place one person above them all, and you have taken away the division of powers and established a de facto totalitarian regime. Oh wait, the president already IS placed above them all, right? Shudder…

But the worst is this insatiable greed for biometric data. Somewhere on this blog I read about genetic discrimination. I sure don’t want to live in such a system.

Calling it ‘volunteering’ is just another lie and manipulation. Pressing people to do something they don’t want by threatening them with something they don’t want either, is not volunteering. It’s extortion. But what the heck; the government operates with extortion all the time anyway.

What is a ‘security clearance’ worth if my personal, intimate and therefore confidential data is distributed to the databases, backups, printouts, transmissions and processing of dozens of organizations, and accessible by many thousands of people? It’s effectively published. Practically guaranteed to be traded, abused, and someday show up on the internet. But even worse, it is in the hands of a government that I have begun to fear because of it’s constant abuse of power.

Neighborcat August 16, 2006 5:21 AM

Read footnote on page 2. “…200.000 known or suspected terrorists…” Apparently not a very exclusive club.

Odd, I’ve always considered secret lists of forbidden people a hallmark of repressive governments.

Marc A. Pelletier August 16, 2006 8:53 AM

My favorite “fact”:

“Most people use passwords. Some people use passphrases. Bruce Schneier uses an epic passpoem, detailing the life and works of seven mythical Norse heroes.”

That one had me rolling on the floor. 🙂

JessO October 20, 2006 9:35 AM

Well becaue of the safety measures that are being taken, you can prevent yourself from being mistaken as a terrorist trying to enter the states by having the proper admissions papers. I have found a way that guarantees my entrance into the U.S. without trouble. If anyone is interested in finding out how you can get help, you can go to

mr T January 16, 2008 1:06 PM

As a former INS agent, I can actually say the system is pathetic. nd it is that way because nobody wants to get involved. They make more money every year whether you take action or not. No body want to get involved because they are afraid it might cause them some ramifications dow te road. Late at night when people want to go home all eyes are closed. When one agency meets another agency there is a stand off of machismo. Or moreso, who doesn’t want to take the rap incase of an error.
America is the greatest and I’m proud to have been born here. Because lord knows I’ve seen the other side and it’s not all hell but youcan see hell from there. All nations are direct products of their people. Please let’s not have a beaten and listless people like so many other countries of the world.
S how does it change? Well leadership. HAH. That’s not easy. But a security expert once said we will never be ready to defend ourselves until each and every person in our countrysteps up and takes passive action. I.E. Israel. But it wouldn’t happen here, everyone is too afraid to affend anyone and that will be our passive downfall.

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