Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Smuggling, theft, bribery at agency

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Aside from patrolling the nation's borders and guarding against terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security also is battling fraud, theft, bribery, smuggling and other crimes by American citizens — with some of the most disturbing examples coming from the sprawling agency's own employees.

A semiannual report filed to Congress by the department's inspector general showed a sharp jump in arrests in the six months ended Sept. 30, with many stemming from schemes by members of the public to bilk the agency of emergency relief funds in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

But the report, released this week, also highlights a litany of staff misconduct: immigration officials demanding sex in exchange for visas, airport screeners stealing money from tourists' luggage, federal air marshals smuggling drugs, and employees from various DHS agencies committing sex crimes — including indecent exposure and distributing child pornography.

The array of staff transgressions tucked into the report reflects the continued growing pains of an agency that was formed only three years ago, and the pressures created as parts of the department have rapidly expanded, critics say.

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