The OIG began its investigation of Operation Gatekeeper because certain Union officials alleged that the program was a fraud. These officials charged that Border Patrol personnel falsified apprehension reports and suppressed agents' apprehension efforts in an attempt to deceive the public about Gatekeeper's effectiveness. These allegations, and other serious allegations of misconduct against Border Patrol management officials, cast doubt on the claims of success that INS had made concerning the new program. Given the magnitude of the problems posed by illegal immigration, the allegations were of major concern both to the general public and to officials in the highest levels of our government.
Having carefully conducted a wide-ranging inquiry into these allegations, we can say with confidence that neither INS nor Border Patrol personnel participated in any conspiracy or concerted effort to falsify records relating to the accomplishments of Operation Gatekeeper. Similarly, INS and Border Patrol personnel did not conspire to prevent Border Patrol agents in the San Diego Sector from apprehending aliens who illegally entered the United States. Furthermore, we found no instance where INS supervisors falsified records, ordered records to be falsified, or improperly prevented agents from apprehending illegal aliens.
We did not reach these conclusions quickly or casually. We took the claim that the public was being deceived about the success of Operation Gatekeeper very seriously. Because lingering questions of possible fraud would likely affect future Border Patrol initiatives along the Southwest border, the OIG sought to gather all evidence that would shed any light on the truth or falsity of the allegations. As a result, the OIG conducted 364 substantive interviews of witnesses and reviewed approximately 100,000 pages of documents during the course of the investigation.
Despite our exhaustive efforts to track down every pertinent allegation of misconduct, we found no misconduct that would warrant being referred for discipline or for further investigation. For most of the allegations, we report that there was no evidence to support the allegation, and we determined that it was unsubstantiated. In some instances, however, we were able to establish affirmatively that a particular event or incident did not occur or could not have occurred as alleged.
We acknowledge, however, that we were unable to resolve every allegation. We received vague allegations that unidentified managers on unspecified occasions committed acts of misconduct, such as falsifying or destroying records. The lack of specificity prevented us from either proving or disproving them. In addition, there almost surely have been occasions when individual supervisors and line agents made inappropriate decisions, as there would be in any major initiative of this scope. There is no evidence, however, that such instances of bad judgment, assuming they occurred, reflected anything more than the personal failings of imperfect managers.
We do not believe that our inability to disprove every allegation of misconduct affects our ultimate conclusion that there was no conspiracy aimed at falsifying records, preventing agents from performing their duties, and hoodwinking the public about Gatekeeper's accomplishments. As we note in the body of the report, because of the extremely large number of undocumented aliens apprehended each year in the San Diego Sector, any effort to materially falsify the Sector's apprehension records would require a systematic, comprehensive effort of falsification and deception. We found no evidence of any such effort.
While we found no evidence of fraud, we concluded that Border Patrol management failed to adequately communicate with agents concerning the mission, strategy, and goals of Operation Gatekeeper; failed to adequately train its personnel; and failed to recognize the deleterious effect these failings were having on the morale of many of its agents. Poor communication between management and line agents created an atmosphere of suspicion in which the fraud allegations thrived. Although the purpose of this report was not to conduct a management review of the administration of Operation Gatekeeper, we did observe problems in the management of Operation Gatekeeper and, where appropriate, we have made recommendations that address those areas of concern.
Given our findings that the fraud allegations were unsubstantiated, it is appropriate to discuss the most likely genesis of these allegations. The initiation of Operation Gatekeeper created an atmosphere in which suspicion and rumor were accepted as fact. Some agents intensely disliked the changes caused by the new program. Agents who had previously enjoyed substantial autonomy in their work for the first time faced unprecedented restraints on their independence and freedom of movement. Supervisors now directed the agents' activity and defined their operational roles. This shift in power left some agents dissatisfied. Rumors and hearsay suggesting misconduct circulated quickly among individuals who wanted Operation Gatekeeper to end and were uncritically accepted as true.
Our conclusion that the complainants' allegations are without merit is based on the lack of evidence supporting the allegations and the fact that agents we interviewed worked with the complainants, attended the same meetings and musters, shared the same supervisors, and performed the same duties, yet perceived no wrongdoing in the operation of Gatekeeper or in the reports concerning its effectiveness. Even the individuals who made the initial public complaints were unable to identify persons who had actually witnessed wrongdoing or to provide documentary support for the allegations, and despite hundreds of interviews and the review of thousands of pages of documents, we were unable to find corroboration for their claims.
Unfortunately, our investigation was made more difficult and suffered unnecessary and substantial delay because of the complainants' refusal to identify individuals who could provide information regarding the merits of the allegations and to provide other relevant, necessary information. This was particularly regrettable given that the complainants had sought the aggressive and wide-ranging investigation we intended to conduct. Nevertheless, we were able to surmount these obstacles and ultimately to gather the information necessary to reach our conclusions on the allegations regarding Operation Gatekeeper. We believe these conclusions are fully supported.
Because of the number and nature of the fraud allegations, we placed extraordinary demands on personnel in the Border Patrol, INS, and DOJ for information. Many employees in these agencies cooperated fully and immediately with the OIG's requests for information and testimony in connection with this investigation. From the outset, numerous Border Patrol agents unhesitatingly provided whatever information the OIG sought. Their efforts were essential to our understanding of the context in which the fraud allegations arose.
On the whole, we have been impressed by the hard work and dedication shown by the personnel in the San Diego Sector in addressing the demanding problem of illegal immigration. Operation Gatekeeper required Sector personnel to radically change their methods of operation almost overnight. While implementing this change, their performance was intensely scrutinized by the media, the public, and political leaders. Their sustained efforts and ingenuity were evident, as Border Patrol personnel tried to meet the extraordinary demands placed upon them. Personnel throughout the Border Patrol - including some who disagreed with Operation Gatekeeper's strategy - regularly offered suggestions and ideas on how to improve the Border Patrol's performance. The continued full involvement and commitment of personnel in the Border Patrol are critical to its ability to deal successfully with the challenges posed by the need to control illegal immigration in the San Diego Sector and along the entire Southwest border.
July 9, 1998
Michael R. Bromwich
Barbara A. Grewe
Special Investigative Counsel
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