INS knocked on agent training, gear tracking

IG Report: Survey of INS's Anti-Smuggling Units

By Christopher J. Dorobek

The Immigration and Naturalization Service's anti-smuggling effort has been hindered by a lack of employee training on how to use available technology, a survey by the Justice Department's Inspector General said.

INS' Anti-Smuggling Units (ASUs) are hindered by an overall lack of direction from management. But they also do not get the training and equipment needed to do their job, according to the IG report, "Survey of INS' Anti-Smuggling Units."

"Training in the use of technical investigation equipment is the area of greatest need," according to the report.

ASU agents have access to various technologies that can aid their investigations, such as electronic surveillance equipment and pen registers, which let authorities record all the phone numbers dialed from a particular phone line. "Those agents often have received no training in the use of such devices," according to the report.

Often, if agents want to use the equipment in an investigation, they must wait for assistance from an agent who knows how to operate the gear. "Such agents are not always available, and the agents who have not had technical training are forced to put their investigations on hold until someone is available," the IG stated.

The findings come from visits to the five INS regions and a survey the IG conducted in June 2000 of supervisors for 35 ASUs. The IG also interviewed officials at INS' Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Overall, the IG concluded that the problems cause the anti-smuggling program to operate "in a manner that limits its effectiveness." The IG found that the ASUs also "perceive a lack of direction from INS headquarters regarding" their mission.

The concern over INS' anti-smuggling efforts takes place amid an increase in alien smuggling. Intelligence officials said some organized smuggling rings are switching from smuggling drugs to smuggling illegal aliens because if caught, the penalties are less severe, the IG reported.

Meanwhile, in another report, the IG found problems with INS' property management systems and said, "Immediate corrective actions are necessary."

The audit found that 61,000 items worth nearly $70 million were missing, and that INS has failed to keep track of equipment costing less than $1,000, including several thousand computers. "The property was vulnerable to loss or theft and, as a result, sensitive data stored in the machines may be compromised," according to the report.

In addition, the IG found that INS could not report on the status of 539 weapons.

INS spokesman Greg Gayne said that INS didn't even have a national tracking system until 1998. Instead, each division used its own system. Many issues raised by the IG are the results of problems in merging data from the different systems. "That is a snapshot that was taken of our property situation in 1998 and was a look back over quite a number of years," he said. "There was a lot of old data in there."

Regardless, the property management system is "continuing to pay serious management attention to this," Gayne said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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