U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Comments
DOJ OIG Report on DOJ Terrorism Task Forces
May 18, 2005
"The enforcement and investigative functions of INS, U.S. Customs Service, the Federal Protective Service and the Federal Air Marshals Service were combined to create another new DHS agency called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is responsible for apprehending, detaining and deporting those individuals who enter the country illegally, enforcement of air and marine security and protecting specified federal buildings."
This statement does not accurately reflect ICE's extensive investigative programs and authorities related to both immigration and customs law. ICE recommends that DOJ OIG's description of ICE's responsibilities be reworded based on the mission statements of the three agencies that comprise ICE, as follows:
ICE Office of Investigations mission statement: "to focus on national security, financial, and smuggling violations including illegal arms exports, financial crimes, commercial fraud, human trafficking, narcotics smuggling, child pornography/exploitation, and immigration fraud. ICE brings to bear all of the considerable resources and authorities to fulfill its primary mission: to detect vulnerabilities and prevent violations that threaten national security."
ICE Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) mission statement: "to be responsible for and protect air security and promote public confidence in our nation's civil aviation system through the effective deployment of Federal Air Marshals in order to detect, deter and defeat hostile acts targeting U.S. air carriers, airports, passengers and crews."
ICE Federal Protective Service (FPS) mission statement: "to provide law enforcement and security services to over one million tenants and daily visitors to all federally owned and leased facilities nationwide. FPS focuses directly on the interior security of the nation and the reduction of crimes and potential threats to federal facilities throughout the nation.
Also, the report should note that Air and Marine Operations transferred from ICE to another agency within the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in November 2004.
DOJ OIG cites two paragraphs from a GAO report issued in October 2004 as the basis for the conclusion that ICE has not provided ICE JTTF members with needed direction even though the paragraphs do not refer to ICE support of or direction provided to ICE JTTF agents. ICE responded to the GAO report and has made significant changes in the seven months since that report was issued. ICE requests that the excerpts of the GAO report "Homeland Security, Management Challenges Remain in Transforming Immigration Programs" be removed from the DOJ OIG report on DOJ's Terrorism Task Forces.
"An example of the contradictory guidance the DHS ICE provided to its task force members occurred in June 2003."
The draft report states that in June 2003 an "ICE Regional Coordinator" (there is no such position in ICE) sent a memorandum referring to the 1999 FBI/INS JTTF MOU to three ICE JTTF offices saying "INS agents" could not work intelligence cases. According to the DOJ OIG report, this supposedly caused great confusion among those three offices. However, the draft report's own footnote states that two of the three offices said they never received the memo. We have no record of a June 2003 memorandum on this subject, but believe the memo reference may actually refer to the cover memo sent to field offices by the INS on June 23, 1999, to accompany and explain the FBI/INS JTTF MOU, signed by the FBI June 18, 1999.
Even if there were such a memorandum issued by someone in June 2003, it does not seem that one incident that happened two years ago and affected one agent in one office relating to an MOU signed by both the FBI and the former INS should be used as an example of contradictory guidance being sent to ICE JTTFs. ICE requests the removal of this section from the report.
ICE has Not Cross-Trained its Agents 01' Supervisors in Immigration and Customs Matters
The draft report cites cross-training statistics from late August 2004 which are now outdated. As of March 15, 2005, over 4,900 ICE Special Agents have completed cross training. This number represents virtually the entire priority group (non-supervisory ICE Special Agents working in our field offices) as well as the vast majority of the non-priority group (supervisory and headquarters Special Agents).
ICE requests that this section, and the accompanying item in recommendation 27 "sufficiently trained ICE members on the task force and their supervisory chain of command" be removed from the draft report, as the information on which the recommendation is based is outdated.
Insufficient ICE Staff Detailed to the JTTF and FTTTF
In support of this contention, this section included the following comments from ICE task force members:
"Not enough bodies from ICE. Every case involves an ICE component"
"Should have a full-time Immigration investigative assistant to locate ICE /legacy INS] immigration records and [files]."
"Omaha (JTTF) could always use more people. I suggest at least two immigration people. "
Those statements may, in fact, be the opinions of those particular field agents. In general, we believe that most agents in any office would argue that more personnel, resources and equipment are needed in that venue. ICE, like every other law enforcement agency, has finite resources and therefore prioritizes personnel assignments and resource allocations using risk-based management. Special Agents are not always aware of the competing resource demands when these comments are offered. For example, the fact that there are only five open ICE JTTF cases at the ICE Resident Agent in Charge (RAC) Omaha office indicates that the number of ICE personnel assigned to the Omaha JTTF is more than sufficient to cover the caseload.
ICE requests that this section be removed.
The draft report notes that by October 2004 ICE had substantially increased JTTF participation by 110 positions when compared with the November 2003 baseline number. However, the draft report attributes the bulk of those additional positions (88) to the addition of the Federal Air Marshal Service and the Federal Protective Service (FPS). The report should note that FPS joined ICE in March 2003, and therefore the 30 FPS positions should have already been included as ICE positions in the November 2003 baseline number. The FAMS joined ICE in November 2003, and therefore, it is not likely that their positions would have been counted as ICE positions in the November 2003 baseline assessment.
"DHS no longer details analysts from ICE's Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) to work on the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTTF)"
"the last LESC support to FTTTF was on or about July 2003"
"Because only one ICE person has access to all ICE data systems, that person is inundated with work, and it often takes up to a week for task force members to get answers. [I]t often takes weeks to receive an answer, and it would be more efficient if the FTTTP members had direct access to the DHS data systems. "
While it is true that ICE no longer sends additional personnel TDY to the FTTTF to augment the ICE personnel assigned full-time to the FTTTF, these statements are misleading in that they do not recognize the significant support that ICE, in general, and the LESC, in particular, provide to FTTTF. First, it should be noted that the LESC detailed personnel were Law Enforcement Technicians (LETs) whose role was to search DHS databases, obtain information and forward that information to other FTTTF personnel for further analysis. The LETs had no analytical role. The detail assignments ended because required data searches can be more efficiently and effectively conducted by LETs at the LESC in Vermont. In July 2003, the FBI and FTTTF were informed that instead of having LESC personnel assigned TDY to FTTTF (at great cost to the government), the FTTTF could contact the LESC direct for queries and investigative support.
The FTTTF has had and continues to have direct access to all DHS immigration data
systems through the LESC 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. There are LETs and ICE special agents on duty at the LESC around the clock whose primary role and responsibility is to provide immigration identity and status information to law enforcement officials nationwide, including the FTTTF. Communication with the LESC is secure and entirely electronic, using the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS). Requests for information on specific individuals are received at the LESC in seconds and the available information is usually returned in minutes. The information that will be returned is the same information that would have been obtained by LETs detailed to the FTTTF.
In the last two years the LESC has responded to over 10,000 queries from FBI units, field offices and task forces throughout the United States - each response was completed and sent back from the LESC within a matter of minutes. Over the last several years, LETs in Vermont have worked over a dozen individual projects for local JTTFs in several states each involving multiple name searches - including one project that involved searching 200 names. The majority of those projects were completed within 24 to 48 hours. None took longer than 10 days to complete. The LESC has a close working relationship with the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division. The LESC responded to over 50,000 requests each year for immigration identity and status information from CJIS in connection with prospective firearm purchasers in 2003 and 2004. Again, the requests and responses were entirely electronic and returned in minutes. In addition, until recently, ICE personnel assigned to FTTTF provided support to the Transportation Security Administration's Alien Flight Student Program. That task has been transferred to the CEU's Threat Analysis Section at ICE Headquarters, thereby freeing up the ICE personnel assigned to FTTTF to focus on work directly related to the FTTTF mission.
To further strengthen the ICE commitment to the FTTTF, ICE recently developed and provided a system to FTTTF through which FTTTF personnel (including FBI and other non-ICE personnel) could directly access the US-VISIT and Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) databases.
ICE recommends that this section regarding ICE support to the FTTTF be reworded to more accurately reflect the significant support provided by ICE and ICE LESC to the FBI and the DOJ Terrorism Task Forces.
"ICE assigns non-JTTF tasks to its members on the JTTFs"
ICE agrees that all agencies should make reasonable efforts to ensure their JTTF personnel are not assigned non-JTTF tasks. ICE believes that this requirement is the same for all JTTF members, DHS, FBI or other agencies and, if included in the report, should be included as an overall recommendation to all participants and not just ICE.
"The Deputy Attorney General should work jointly with DHS officials to ensure sufficient DHS participation on the Department's task forces."
DHS is the largest contributor of personnel to JTTFs across the nation (second only to the FBI) and ICE is the largest contributor of personnel (311) among DHS components. In addition to its contribution of personnel to the field JTTFs, ICE also has personnel assigned full time to the Foreign Terrorist Travel Task Force (FTTTF), the FBI's International Terrorism Operation Section (ITOS), the Terrorist Financing Operations Section (TFQS), and an ICE senior manager is detailed as deputy director of N-JTTF. ICE has two agents assigned to counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation units at the CIA and the CIA has reciprocated by assigning two officers full time to ICE. The FBI has declined to assign any personnel to any ICE counter-terrorism or intelligence units at ICE headquarters.
ICE has also increased its presence at CBP's National Targeting Center (NTC) by a factor of four, allowing ICE to be operationally responsive 24 hours a day, seven days a week to terrorist-related lookouts and other issues. As a result of the partnership with NTC, during FY 2004, ICE JTTF agents responded over 935 times to various ports of entry to interview and take appropriate action with regard to persons who were arriving at U.S. ports of entry and were matches or potential matches to persons listed on the national terrorist watch list.
JTTFs have expanded to more than 100 locations in a short period of time. A number of these JTTFs are in locations remote from any established ICE office and where the workload would not support a full-time ICE position. In order to make a more accurate determination of the appropriate staffing levels at each JTTF, it would have been useful for the DOJ IG to have conducted a caseload analysis at each JTTF location including a breakdown of the type of cases the authorities needed. This type of assessment would prove valuable to any agency's decision with respect to commitments to local task force activity-certainly more useful than the purely anecdotal comments from task force agents.
ICE recommends that the report be modified to reflect the significant resources already provided by ICE in support of DOJ's Terrorism Task Forces, the substantial logistical and financial challenges in providing such support and recommendations as to locations where resource needs outweigh such concerns.