G. Allegations that agents were prevented from responding to citizen calls in order to keep apprehension figures low
Prior to Gatekeeper, citizens regularly observed and reported the presence of aliens in Imperial Beach neighborhoods. Bonner testified in the summer 1996 hearings that during Gatekeeper, "citizens' reports of undocumented aliens are routinely not relayed to Border Patrol Agents, and agents are rarely allowed to respond to the reports even when they are relayed." No. 1922 echoed this complaint, testifying that "at the direction of supervisors, citizens' reports of illegal aliens are rarely relayed to agents. Even when the reports are relayed, agents are usually not allowed to leave their stationary positions to pursue the illegal aliens."
One Union official told the OIG that the Border Patrol's disregard for citizen complaints was occurring at Imperial Beach and at other stations along the border. When pressed on this latter point, this witness referred to an alleged incident when a citizen called Campo Station and was told that the station no longer accepted citizen calls. This witness refused to supply the citizen's name or any other information to the OIG, however, claiming that he first wanted to investigate the matter.
Two witnesses repeated a second-hand claim that a citizen had allegedly observed approximately 300 aliens in the Cleveland National Forest area, and reported his sighting to both the Campo and El Cajon stations. Each of the stations allegedly told the caller that there were no units available to respond. Neither witness provided any details concerning this alleged incident, such as when it occurred and who in the Border Patrol might have first-hand knowledge of it.124
In investigating these and similar allegations, the OIG interviewed Campo and El Cajon agents, Sector Communications dispatchers, and relevant personnel at other agencies. While all witnesses agreed that the Border Patrol did not and could not respond to every citizen call regarding possible alien traffic, witnesses disagreed as to whether such calls were even relayed to agents so that a determination could be made as to whether any were available to respond. Witnesses also disagreed as to why units had not responded to such calls on specific occasions.
Citizens may report alien traffic by contacting a Border Patrol station, by calling Sector Headquarters, or by calling a toll-free 800 number. If a citizen contacts a station and reports current information about the presence of alien traffic, the station's desk officer may broadcast this information to field agents for possible response. If someone calls Sector Headquarters or the 800 number with information about alien traffic, this information may be broadcast by Sector Dispatch to agents at the relevant station for response, or the information may be recorded on a form G-330 (Information Report) and forwarded to Sector Intelligence. The 800 number, which was established by the Border Patrol in July 1995, was not intended to serve as an emergency contact that would lead to an immediate response from agents. Instead, the agency hoped to use this resource to gather information about patterns in illegal traffic and smuggling operations.
The OIG received 8 complaints from the 69 witnesses we interviewed about the treatment of citizen calls at Imperial Beach Station. The complainants alleged either that the citizen reports were not broadcast, or that agents were not permitted to respond to these calls. Four of the complaints were based on rumors that witnesses had heard from others.
One line agent claimed that agents "generally" could not respond to citizen calls, and that the lack of agent response angered citizens. He could not provide any specific instances when agents were available but were not permitted to respond, however, and he could not recall whether a supervisor had ever instructed him not to respond to a citizen's call. He testified that when he was the desk officer, he always radioed the citizen's call to the field. He said, however, there frequently was no unit available to respond. A second line agent told us that while Sector Dispatch broadcasts citizen calls, agents are not permitted to respond to these reports, and they are "usually ignored."
A Union official told us that he believed that dispatchers were not broadcasting citizen calls because, on days when no citizen calls were relayed, his wife would tell him that she had seen numerous aliens on the street. He admitted, however, that his wife had not called the station to report the traffic, and he did not know whether anyone else had.125 The Union official also complained that citizen calls within the city limits of Imperial Beach were never responded to because supervisors invariably stated that no units were available. He contended that backup units in the second tier could and should have responded to citizen reports of aliens in the Imperial Beach neighborhoods. He conceded, however, that using second-tier backup units for this purpose presented a judgment call, and that supervisors might disagree with this approach.
Another Union official assigned to Imperial Beach testified that no one answered citizen complaints, and that he had heard rumors that Sector Dispatch had been told not to broadcast these complaints. While this official contended that he suggested to the FOS that this practice should be changed, the FOS identified by this witness left Imperial Beach Station prior to the initiation of Gatekeeper. Research revealed documentation - dated eight months before Gatekeeper began - of problems relating to Station response to citizen complaints about alien traffic. This official also admitted that for some period of time Chula Vista was assigned responsibility for responding to citizen complaints of alien traffic in Imperial Beach's area of responsibility.
No. 1922 told Congress that citizen complaints of alien traffic were not relayed to field agents, and he told the OIG that he had heard from another agent -whom he could not identify - that an Imperial Beach FOS had admitted instructing Sector Dispatch not to broadcast citizen reports. No. 1922 commented that "the citizens are complaining, but we won't answer the citizens' calls because we don't care about them." This witness provided no evidence supporting his allegations, however. In particular, he could not identify a single occasion in which a citizen had contacted a station about illegal traffic and falsely been told that no agents were available to respond to the call.
One first-line supervisor told us that he had heard a rumor that someone had instructed Sector Dispatch not to broadcast citizen complaints during a particular shift. This instruction had allegedly been in effect for some unspecified time between January and April 1995. An agent assigned to the shift in question confirmed that he had heard the same rumor, but could provide no other information.
Finally, a line agent testified that in summer 1994 or 1995, a dispatcher told him that an Imperial Beach supervisor had instructed him not to broadcast any citizen complaints. The agent could not identify any of the personnel involved.
In contrast to the allegations discussed above, all other witnesses interviewed on this point - both line agents and supervisors - told the OIG that agents always responded to citizen complaints about alien traffic except when no agents were available to respond. None of these witnesses recalled an occasion in which they were available to respond to a particular citizen complaint but were prevented from doing so. While Imperial Beach management conceded that the station did not have sufficient manpower to respond to every citizen call, it was Station policy to respond when possible. The fact that management arranged for Chula Vista agents to respond to Imperial Beach citizen complaints during the initiation of Gatekeeper demonstrates that the Border Patrol makes responding to citizen calls a priority.
While most witnesses agreed that agents assigned to stationary positions along the border could not leave their assignments to respond to citizen complaints, our investigation revealed that this policy was fully justified. Removing agents from high visibility border positions would create a hole in the line and reduce the desired deterrent effect. As we noted previously in discussing agents who were disciplined for leaving their fixed positions, the first priority of a deterrence policy is maintaining the high visibility positions. Although first-tier agents could respond to a citizen's report of several aliens a mile or so away, it is not rational to remove an agent from a deterrence position to investigate such a complaint. Moreover, because most citizen sightings were in the third tier, first-tier agents would not be in a position to respond quickly enough to serve any purpose. Numerous witnesses told the OIG that aliens who reach the neighborhoods of Imperial Beach can very easily blend into the community and obtain transportation. Unless agents are located in the immediate vicinity of the area referred to in a citizen complaint, it is generally not fruitful for them to respond; the aliens will have disappeared by the time the agents arrive.126
We found the allegation that citizen complaints were not relayed to field agents was completely unfounded. We found no evidence supporting the rumors that Sector Dispatch had been instructed not to broadcast citizen complaints to the field. No witness claimed to have first-hand knowledge that dispatchers had been given this instruction, and none of the dispatchers we interviewed was aware of such an instruction. The one FOS rumored to have told dispatchers not to relay citizens' calls to the field testified that to the contrary, the policy has always been that if there are agents available, they should respond. He agreed that Sector dispatch had on occasion been informed that there was no unit available.
Moreover, numerous witnesses - including desk officers who had actually broadcast citizen complaints - testified that citizen reports that came directly to a station were in fact relayed to agents in the field. Desk officers we interviewed testified that they routinely relayed such reports to the field, although they conceded that a unit was not always available to respond. Agents serving in the field confirmed that they had heard broadcasts of citizens' sightings. Supervisors we interviewed testified not only that citizen complaints were broadcast, but also that the policy was to respond to such complaints whenever manpower was available to respond.
We also heard overwhelming testimony that a significant reduction in citizen calls took place after Gatekeeper was implemented. Line agents, supervisors, and all dispatchers we interviewed testified that the number of citizen calls to Imperial Beach dropped dramatically after Gatekeeper was initiated. Legislative hearing testimony, agent interviews, and citizen accounts in various publications confirm that alien traffic in the Imperial Beach neighborhoods decreased substantially, and that calls to the Border Patrol for assistance decreased proportionately.127 The sudden, significant decrease in broadcasts of citizen complaints may have led some agents to believe that Sector Dispatch had stopped broadcasting all of the citizen reports it received, when in fact the Sector was simply receiving a much smaller number of citizen complaints.
No witness interviewed by the OIG claimed to have first-hand knowledge of citizen calls - reporting current sightings of alien traffic - that were not relayed to agents. The allegations of misconduct in this area were supported only by several second-hand, unsubstantiated rumors that for some period of time one supervisor on one shift at Imperial Beach may have for some undefined period of time requested that Sector Dispatch not broadcast citizen calls. Although there were times when Imperial Beach Station was so short of manpower that it would not have made sense to broadcast citizen calls - because it was highly unlikely that any agents were available who could respond - we did not locate any evidence, as opposed to rumor, that citizen reports were not broadcast.128
We should point out that even if some calls were not relayed to the field, there is no evidence that this conduct would have significantly affected Imperial Beach Station's apprehension numbers. As noted above, the number of citizen calls regarding alien traffic at Imperial Beach dropped dramatically with the onset of Gatekeeper. There was also substantial testimony that the size of groups crossing through Imperial Beach was significantly smaller post-Gatekeeper. Accordingly, the failure to respond to a particular call would have less of an impact during Gatekeeper than before Gatekeeper. Finally, numerous contemporaneous documents indicate that little alien traffic successfully penetrated the first two tiers of agents at Imperial Beach. Because most citizen calls concerned third-tier areas, maintaining a strong first and second tier had a direct impact on the number of citizen complaints the Station received. We found no evidence that citizen calls made during Gatekeeper were or could have been an important source of apprehensions that could have significantly affected the Station's reported apprehension numbers.129
Based on the consistent testimony of numerous Imperial Beach agents that citizen reports of alien traffic were relayed to the field and responded to when possible, we reject as unsubstantiated the allegation that citizen calls to this Station were "routinely" ignored. Moreover, as noted above, any failure to properly respond to citizen calls would not have had a significant impact on the Station's reported apprehension numbers.
At the Chula Vista Station, we received two complaints that agents were not permitted to respond to citizen calls. One agent told us that citizen calls are not broadcast and are "usually ignored." He further reported that a supervisor once reprimanded him for responding to a citizen's call and apprehending a group of undocumented aliens. This agent conceded, however, that he had been reprimanded on numerous occasions for abandoning his assigned position.130 Given this record, and the fact that no other agents reported being chastised for responding to citizen calls, we believe that this witness was reprimanded for leaving his position without permission rather than for not responding to a citizen's call.
A second Chula Vista agent contended that he was aware of occasions when backup units could have responded to citizen calls but were not permitted to do so. He also reported rumors that Sector Dispatch had been instructed not to broadcast citizen calls, and he identified one supervisor who invariably and immediately responded "no unit available" when a citizen's call was broadcast. We interviewed that supervisor and he denied the charge, claiming that he always tried to find available units to respond to citizen calls.
The testimony of the remaining Chula Vista agents largely paralleled that of their Imperial Beach colleagues. They reported that citizen calls were broadcast and responded to if any units were available.131 They agreed that agents assigned to front-line positions along the border were not permitted to respond to such calls. Several agents testified, however, that unless the police department transport vehicle (used to transport aliens apprehended by various police departments) had been determined to be available to transport aliens apprehended as a result of a citizen call, no agent could respond to such a call. Another agent testified that agents were not allowed to respond to "inland" citizen calls at night because of a lack of manpower and officer safety concerns.
Considered as a whole, the testimony from Chula Vista agents indicated that citizen calls were responded to when possible. Although agents might disagree as to whether a response was possible in a particular case, the fact that only two Chula Vista agents complained about this issue suggests that disagreements regarding citizen calls at Chula Vista are rare.132
At Brown Field, two agents testified about two occasions when a supervisor falsely radioed "no unit available" in response to a citizen call. On neither occasion was the agent making the complaint available to respond. Both complaints were based on the agents' perceptions that a unit was available to respond. The two agents could not provide any details concerning either incident, so we were unable to determine whether their perceptions were accurate.
Once again, however, the vast majority of Brown Field agents testified that if a unit was available to respond to a citizen call, the unit responded. Numerous Brown Field intelligence reports indicate that agents did indeed respond to citizen calls. While several reports indicate that on occasion no response was made because no units were available, these records make clear that citizen reports were apparently taken seriously and investigated when possible.
No. 1922 testified that he heard a Brown Field supervisor tell Sector Communications - after approximately 40 citizen calls had come in on one shift - that if any additional citizen calls were received, Sector Communications should tell the citizen that no units were available to respond. The supervisor identified by No. 1922 denied that there was any occasion when the station received that many calls or when he gave such an instruction to Sector Communications. No other witness suggested awareness of this alleged incident, and no report suggested that the station had ever been inundated with so many citizen calls. Even if true, this complaint concerns one incident on one shift on one night. It does not demonstrate a pattern of ignoring calls to reduce apprehension statistics.
At El Cajon we received no complaints from agents about any lack of response to citizen calls. Indeed, the intelligence reports from El Cajon indicate that citizen calls were an important source of information, and that agents responded to these calls. Although some citizens were upset that the Station did not always respond to their calls, we found no evidence that the failure to respond to every call was due to anything other than a lack of manpower.133
We found no evidence to support the second-hand reports of an alleged incident when someone working in the Cleveland National Forest supposedly observed 300 aliens, called both El Cajon and Campo Stations, and was told that no units were available to respond. The individual who allegedly made these calls, and his assistant, denied that any such incident had occurred.134 Indeed, the individual who had supposedly made the calls told us that he had never seen a group of aliens that large. He claimed the largest groups he had seen contained 10 to 20 aliens. Both he and his assistant testified that they had contacted the Border Patrol on occasion, and had found the agency to be very responsive to their calls.135
The OIG received only one complaint regarding the handling of citizen calls at Campo Station: the claim that a caller had been told by Station personnel that citizen calls were no longer accepted - an incident the witness conceded may have merely been a misunderstanding. Several witnesses told us that Campo Station responded to approximately 90 percent of the citizen calls it received. One Campo supervisor testified that the station received an average of 10 calls per day. On some days the station was able to respond to all of the calls; on other days, it responded to only five or six. The supervisor noted that if all of the Station's agents had aliens in custody, they could not respond to a citizen call. As at other stations, Campo agents assigned to high visibility positions near the border were not permitted to leave those positions to respond to citizen calls.
In addition to interviewing Campo Station personnel, we discovered a May 24, 1996, memorandum regarding agent assignments at Campo that emphasized the importance of citizen calls. This memorandum noted that in the event of a manpower shortage agents assigned to the most easterly positions should be made available to respond to sensor activity and citizen calls. We found no evidence that Campo Station had either stopped handling citizen calls or had told citizens that it would no longer accept such calls.
In certain local newspaper articles published in summer 1996, however, citizens complained that they had called the Border Patrol to report alien traffic but had observed no response. We have no doubt that when alien traffic increased in the East County, and citizens began reporting large numbers of undocumented aliens, the Border Patrol could not respond to all of the calls. These lapses were caused by Campo Station's serious manpower shortages during the first two years of Gatekeeper and not by a policy that all citizen calls should be ignored.
The only station we concluded that had a policy of ignoring citizen calls was San Clemente, which operates the I-5 checkpoint. The checkpoint stations had been instructed to operate 24 hours a day, and at San Clemente these operations consumed all available manpower.136 Accordingly, citizen calls to San Clemente Station - which has no patrol responsibilities - were referred to local police departments. At Temecula Station - which operates the I-15 checkpoint and a number of mobile checkpoints - agents told us that although their mandate is to operate checkpoints, if at all possible they respond to citizen calls.
In sum, except for several rumors that Sector Dispatch was told on occasion not to broadcast citizen reports, we found no evidence that stations routinely ignored citizen calls. The vast majority of witnesses testified that citizen reports were regularly relayed to the field. Although we cannot rule out that calls may not have been relayed on isolated occasions, there was no evidence of a systematic practice of suppressing information provided by citizens. Similarly, while citizen reports were not responded to on occasion, we found no practice of ignoring such calls for the sake of avoiding apprehensions. Numerous witnesses confirmed that the failure to respond to citizen information was due to a lack of available manpower, not to a desire to artificially reduce apprehension numbers. Significantly, Imperial Beach Station - where most of these complaints were made - was the station least likely to have its apprehension numbers materially affected by such conduct. While management did not permit agents assigned to stationary positions to leave their positions to respond to citizen calls, we find this policy appropriate and no evidence of improper motive. This policy did not mean that citizen calls generally went unanswered.
Based on all of the evidence, we reject as unsubstantiated the claim that citizen calls were rarely relayed to agents, and the claim that agents rarely responded to such calls.
H. Summary of the OIG's findings regarding allegations of artificial limits on apprehensions
The premise of claims that the Border Patrol placed artificial limits on apprehensions was that the agency wanted lower apprehension numbers to prove the success of Operation Gatekeeper. According to this theory, when apprehension numbers did not fall - due to a flawed strategy - management sought to prevent agents from apprehending aliens. In addition to misleading the public about Gatekeeper's effectiveness, managers up to and including the Attorney General allegedly instructed agents to permit aliens to enter the country illegally to protect Gatekeeper's image.
Despite the serious nature of these allegations, no witness provided solid evidence to support these claims. In each instance, a few agents complained about a Border Patrol policy or action, and argued that the agency was acting in bad faith to artificially limit apprehensions.
Although supervisors were concerned about the number of apprehensions and frustrated when they remained high, they repeatedly assigned additional resources to high traffic areas; they did not ask agents to close their eyes to the traffic. Witness testimony and contemporaneous documents make clear that supervisors were seeking to lower apprehension numbers by increasing deterrence, not by instructing agents that they could not apprehend undocumented aliens. Additional border positions were created where traffic continued to enter, and specialty units were assigned where traffic penetrated the front line of defense. Generally, resources were moved closer to the border to contain the traffic, rather than let it penetrate at will. The fact that so few agents believed that supervisors were asking them to stand aside and let alien traffic pass demonstrates that this was not the message conveyed by management.
When supervisors set goals or benchmarks against which to measure performance, several agents claimed that they represented strict limits on the number of aliens who could be apprehended. Yet none of the complainants could provide a single instance when apprehensions were halted because the quota or limit had been reached. Similarly, these agents could not explain why stations often reported apprehensions well above the so-called limit. While managers contacted stations that regularly reported apprehensions in excess of particular benchmarks, the purpose of these calls was to obtain information and to offer assistance, not to threaten supervisors for performance failures. Again, only a few agents interpreted these benchmarks as limits, and they had no basis for this interpretation other than a profound distrust of supervisory personnel.
When supervisors told agents at musters that they did not want apprehensions made in a particular area - meaning that agents needed to deter all traffic from testing a particular location along the border - some agents claimed that they had been instructed to ignore aliens and permit them entry. The supervisors who made these comments told us that they were urging deterrence, and contemporaneous documents containing these same instructions support the supervisors' testimony. Moreover, the vast majority of agents understood that deterrence, not abdication of duty, was the message. None of the agents who contended that they had been instructed to permit aliens to enter ever asked their supervisors if that was what they intended. If these agents truly believed that their supervisors were giving such an instruction, they surely would have questioned such a flagrant violation of duty. The fact that they did not suggests that their complaints are not true.
When agents assigned to fixed positions abandoned those positions to chase alien traffic, and were reprimanded for this misconduct, some claimed that they were being punished for apprehending aliens, as opposed to disobeying orders. Gatekeeper involved new rules that many agents intensely disliked, including the requirement that agents assigned to fixed positions had to remain in position until they were relieved or given permission to move elsewhere. Agents accustomed to freedom of movement chafed at the new restrictions. Supervisors testified, however, that maintaining the high visibility positions along the border was crucial to Gatekeeper's deterrence strategy. They contended that agents were reprimanded because they left their positions, not because they had apprehended aliens. Written reprimands we obtained support the supervisors' testimony. Moreover, the agents who were reprimanded had repeatedly abandoned their positions without contacting their supervisors or being relieved. These agents refused to recognize that they are part of a team and that they have a responsibility to act as part of a team. Under the circumstances, the suggestion that they were reprimanded for apprehending aliens is entirely unfounded.
Several witnesses alleged that agents were assigned to low traffic areas in an effort to reduce apprehension numbers. The evidence showed, however, that agents were transferred from so-called "high traffic" areas to high visibility positions intended to deter entry. The assignment examples cited by complainants were rational managerial decisions aimed at gaining control of particular areas along the border. We found no evidence that supervisors left high traffic areas unpatrolled to reduce apprehensions.
Some agents complained that they were being ordered to chase aliens back across the border, rather than apprehending them, again allegedly to keep apprehension figures low. The evidence showed, however, that turning aliens back south - known as "TBS" - is a legitimate tactic that was used long before Gatekeeper to contain large groups of aliens and to protect agents from injury. We found no evidence that during Gatekeeper supervisors were ordering agents to use this tactic, let alone ordering them to use it in inappropriate circumstances. The decision to TBS aliens was made by individual agents, and was based on the agent's judgment as to whether apprehension was a reasonable and safe alternative. Thus, there was no support for the claim that aliens were being turned back south to make Gatekeeper appear effective.
The OIG also received complaints that management had eliminated roving patrols at the Temecula checkpoint station because the patrols apprehend large numbers of aliens. Although curtailing roving patrols probably reduced apprehension numbers, there was overwhelming evidence that this operational change was driven by safety and legal concerns as well as Congressional pressure. After a series of serious accidents during vehicle pursuits of aliens, the Border Patrol revised its patrol policy in an effort to avoid future accidents. In addition, a series of Ninth Circuit decisions raising the level of suspicion necessary to justify vehicle stops made roving patrols less effective and more susceptible to legal challenge. Mobile checkpoints - which were adopted by management as a substitute for roving patrols - allow agents to stop all vehicles for inspection without the risk of dangerous vehicle pursuits or the potential legal infirmities of vehicle stops. Finally, Congress's directive that the I-15 checkpoint operate around the clock effectively precluded roving patrols when manpower was short. In sum, while the elimination of roving patrols probably reduced apprehension numbers, there is no evidence that this was the objective of the new strategy.
Several witnesses complained that the elimination of third tier or backup positions permitted aliens who made it past the first tier to successfully enter the country. Although third-tier positions at Imperial Beach were substantially weakened and likely eliminated for a time, we saw no evidence that this action was taken to permit aliens unimpeded entry. Indeed, third-tier agents were transferred to first-tier positions on the border in an effort to deter more traffic, and to apprehend traffic which was not successfully deterred closer to the border. When there was inadequate manpower to staff every position in every tier, it was logical for management to give priority to the critical, first-tier border positions.
Finally, several witnesses complained that the Border Patrol ignored citizen reports of alien traffic, again for the alleged purpose of reducing apprehensions. Although not every citizen call received a response, the evidence demonstrates that the stations made an effort to respond when possible. We cannot criticize the Border Patrol for refusing to remove agents from high visibility positions along the border to respond to reports concerning individuals who might not be undocumented aliens and might not be at the cited location when agents arrived. We find nothing inappropriate in maintaining border positions under these circumstances in an effort to deter additional aliens from attempting entry.
In evaluating the allegations listed above, the following points should be considered. If the allegations are true, large numbers of undocumented aliens were allowed to enter the country during Gatekeeper. Such an influx of aliens would be quite apparent. There would, for example, be large numbers of undocumented aliens in the neighborhoods of Imperial Beach. No witness contended that this was the case, however. Even Gatekeeper's most vocal detractors conceded that the number of aliens in Imperial Beach has dropped dramatically since Gatekeeper began.
Second, if agents had actually been instructed during Gatekeeper to ignore aliens, to ignore citizen calls, and to otherwise avoid apprehensions, large numbers of aliens would have successfully entered the United States at Imperial Beach, and would have had no reason to attempt entry through the more dangerous and difficult East County terrain. Again, however, there was no dispute that alien traffic shifted east after Gatekeeper was implemented at Imperial Beach.
Finally, several witnesses contended that once the OIG began its investigation, the Border Patrol's improper practices ceased. If that were true, apprehension statistics should show a significant increase beginning in late July 1996. As noted previously, however, the statistics show no such spike. Conversely, if the alleged improper practices were still ongoing when the OIG's investigation commenced, witnesses should have been able to give us specific examples. During our investigation, however, we received only one current complaint about a supervisor allegedly preventing an agent from apprehending aliens. As described in detail above, we investigated that allegation thoroughly and found it without merit.
Although the complainants were correct about some of the underlying facts - such as the elimination of roving patrols, the weakening of backup positions, and the rule that agents assigned to first-line border positions could no longer leave those positions - their assumption that these operational changes were made to avoid apprehensions was unfounded. This assumption was made by a very small number of agents, many of whom distrusted the motives of management without knowing what those motives were. These individuals also denigrated Operation Gatekeeper and its efforts at deterrence, arguing that the new strategy was not effective despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. These agents viewed with great suspicion any actions taken by management to implement Gatekeeper. Their fellow agents - who heard the same instructions and saw the same actions - came to different conclusions about the supervisors' intent. While not all of these agents approved of Gatekeeper's new rules and strategy, they concluded that their supervisors were acting in good faith to implement a new approach to operations designed to improve the Border Patrol's effectiveness. We agree with their conclusion, and find no evidence that supervisors acted to intentionally preclude agents from making apprehensions.
124 Neither witness identified the caller by name, but they did identify the caller's position. The individual works in local government.
125 This official initially testified that certain agents, whose identity he could not recall, had told him that dispatchers had been instructed not to broadcast citizen calls. Further inquiry revealed, however, that this alleged instruction related to sensors, not to citizen calls.
126 This fact explains why one manager told the OIG that he does not permit agents to respond to citizen calls in downtown San Diego. He instructed agents who received such calls to complete a G-330 form and forward it to the appropriate group for further investigation.
127 We learned of one incident that demonstrates the dramatic decrease in citizen complaints. In approximately October 1995, a delegation of visitors from outside the Sector as well as some media personnel toured Imperial Beach Station. Simultaneous with the delegation's arrival, Sector Dispatch was inundated with purported citizen reports of alien traffic at Imperial Beach. Because of the recent decrease in citizen complaints, a supervisor was suspicious of the calls. He listened to recordings of the calls and recognized two agents' voices. When confronted, the two agents confessed to having made the calls. They wanted visitors to believe that there was still significant alien traffic at Imperial Beach and felt that the phony calls were necessary to create that impression.
128 In our investigation of these allegations, we also reviewed relevant documentary evidence, including an analysis of citizen calls to the Imperial Beach Station from January through September 1996. Some witnesses questioned the reliability of this report - which was based on logs maintained by desk officers - claiming that the officers were "too lazy" to record the calls they received. Because calls to the station were not tape-recorded, there is no means of checking the accuracy of the logs. In any event, the report indicated that in no month during that period were more than 16 calls received during the entire month. Nearly all calls involved sightings of fewer than five aliens. The report did not indicate that citizen calls regarding large numbers of aliens were being routinely ignored. Indeed, the level of response indicated on the report is consistent with the witness testimony that calls were responded to if agents were available.
We also obtained a station weekly intelligence report for the first week of 1996 that included a conclusory statement that the Station's inability to investigate citizen reports was a weakness in its operations. The report did not indicate how many calls were received and responded to during the one-week period, however, or any other information explaining this comment.
129 A Sector Intelligence witness told the OIG that only about half of the citizen calls received by the Sector contain useful information. This testimony further indicates that even if all citizen calls to Imperial Beach were not properly handled, this failure would not significantly affect reported apprehension numbers.
130 This agent also said he believes that Gatekeeper is "a bunch of bullshit" and that agents are no longer allowed to do their jobs.
131 The intelligence reports from the Chula Vista Station contain few references to citizen calls, suggesting that they were not a major factor at that station.
132 One February 1996 document from Chula Vista noted that on occasions of heavy rain - when agents are forced to retreat from their border positions to paved roads located more inland - agents are required to "immediate[ly] respon[d]" to local citizen reports of alien traffic. When agents are forced to retreat from their high visibility positions along the border, it makes sense that they would be more available to respond to citizen calls.
133 El Cajon Station's commitment to serving its community is demonstrated by its creation of a "storefront" location in the Jamul area where citizens can meet with agents and provide information. This office, and the toll-free 800 number established for citizen calls, demonstrate that both the Station and the Sector place a high priority on obtaining information from citizens to assist in Border Patrol operations.
134 Both witnesses testified that they had noticed a significant decrease in alien traffic from 1996 to 1997.
135 The caller testified that there was only one occasion when he had difficulty obtaining a response from the Border Patrol. He called both El Cajon and Campo stations repeatedly - at the time his area was on the border between Campo and El Cajon - about a single alien sitting under a tree, but was told that no agent was available to respond. He said he finally threatened to complain to the media, and agents then responded immediately. Obviously, a failure to respond to a call concerning one alien does not prove that the Border Patrol had a broad policy of ignoring citizen reports of alien traffic.
136 As noted earlier, Congress demanded, and received assurances that, the I-5 and I-15 checkpoints would operate around the clock. The Border Patrol's acceptance of this demand was formalized in an agreement between the Border Patrol and Congress.