Inspector: Stolen passports often work
Lawmaker calls for better coordination between agencies
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Non-residents applying for admission to the United States using stolen passports have little reason to fear being caught and are usually admitted, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General said in a report issued Thursday.
"Our analysis showed that it made only a small difference whether the stolen passports were posted in the lookout system," said the report. That system contains information about aliens who may be admissible or may be of interest to a law enforcement agency.
The report shows a "scandalous" lack of coordination among federal agencies, Rep. Christopher Cox, a California Republican, said in a written statement.
The report demonstrates the need for better sharing of information between Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both of which are part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Inspector General's review traced foreign travelers who attempted to use stolen passports to enter the United States.
Of those who did not have notices posted on the lookout system for their stolen passports, 81 percent were admitted.
Of the second group, which had notices posted for their stolen passports prior to their attempted entries, 73 percent were admitted.
Though 39 non-residents from the second group were referred to secondary inspections for more intensive interviews, 18 were subsequently admitted.
"Further, we could not determine from the secondary inspections records the inspectors' rationale for admitting the aliens with lookouts for the stolen passports," the report said. "The records of the secondary inspections often were nonexistent or so sketchy that they were not useful."
The reviewers also learned that, when Customs and Border Protection agents receive reports of stolen passports, they do not routinely review records to determine whether the passports have already been used to gain admission.
And, even if such a procedure existed, there is no protocol for informing ICE about the use of stolen passports, the report found.
Though the reviewers acknowledged that the 136 successful entries using stolen passports is a small number compared with the millions of legal entries each year, they deemed it significant for several reasons:
The passports were obtained through criminal acts.
The number should be zero for those admissions that occurred after lookouts were posted. Information had been reported and logged into the lookout systems for those, yet entry occurred anyway, defeating the costly mechanism set up to prevent just such an occurrence.
Law enforcement agencies did not pursue any of the cases once it was recognized that an illegal entry had occurred.
The report, signed by acting Inspector General Richard L. Skinner, recommended that Customs and Border Protection:
Require primary inspectors to refer aliens to secondary inspections when the aliens' passports are the subjects of lookouts.
Require inspectors to record in detail the results of the secondary inspections and justifications for any subsequent admissions.
Require a supervisor to review and approve an inspector's decision to admit an alien who was the subject of a lookout, and ensure that the review is recorded as part of the secondary inspections record.
Require inspectors to enter -- in a timely manner -- name-based lookouts for aliens found inadmissible.
Routinely review admission records to identify prior uses of stolen passports.
Report information on the successful use of stolen passports to enter the United States to Immigration and ICE for investigation.
The inspectors also recommended that ICE develop procedures to investigate, locate and remove from the United States aliens who have used stolen passports to gain entry to the country and to report the outcomes of its investigations to CBP.
For aliens who used stolen passports that have terrorist links, ICE should investigate their activities while in the United States and determine their whereabouts, the investigators said.
"We have no reason to doubt that the IG's report is true," said Cox, chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security. "Even biometric data is useless if government agencies are not properly using it and sharing the information."
In a memo accompanying the report, Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary for border and transportation security, said his department "concurs with the recommendations made in this report, although we believe that overly broad and generalized conclusions were drawn based on a small and nonstatistical sample."
Agencies in the Department of Homeland Security "have already taken steps toward implementing corrective actions," he said.