Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Other Side

My last post was about how what should be a near non-issue, West Nile Virus, is hyped by the media into a frenzy of doom, every year, like clockwork.  I talked about how the media, through inflammatory language and careful wording, manage to make what is in fact a one-in-a-million occurrence into a big, scary, epidemic threat that gets repeated and drummed on over and over and over, until it scares people silly and sucks the air out of the news cycle --except of course for celebrity "news," which we always have time for. 

Now, I'd like to show you how the media does exactly the opposite, when it chooses to.  This month, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security issued a Special Report summarizing its "significant" investigative activities during 2011.  I warn you, there are a lot of them.  If you don't have time to read them all, read a few and then scroll to the end of the indented portion to read my conclusion.
*A Customs and Border Protection agent in Texas and his now-estranged wife have pleaded guilty to being part of a cocaine smuggling ring, and he has been sentenced to 9 years in prison.  She's on the lam, after failing to appear for sentencing.

*A Border Patrol Officer has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from drug smugglers in return for providing information to the smugglers that would facilitate the smuggling of drugs into the US without detection.  He's been sentenced to 20 months (!) in prison.

*An ICE immigration enforcement officer and some "associates" were convicted of drug trafficking as well as using his position to steal drugs from rival drug traffickers.  It seems they had the ICE agent handy to lend an air of law enforcement legitimacy when they'd bust in and steal drugs from their competition.  The officer is now serving ten years in prison.

*An ICE Special Agent pleaded guilty of illegally importing and distributing steroids on at least six occasions.   He's doing 24 months in prison.

*A Supervisory Immigration Services Officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services  and his son were convicted of a scheme whereby the basically sold immigration approvals in return for money.  The officer has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and the son to 4 years. During the investigation, it was discovered that one of the officer's subordinate employees was running a separate scheme in which the subordinate accepted money from as many as 10 illegal aliens in exchange for the issuance of immigration benefits. He pleaded guilty also, and wasn't yet sentenced at the time the report was written.

*A customs and Border Patrol officer was convicted for accepting a bribe to allow drugs (almost a ton of marijuana)  to pass through the border into the US.   He was sentenced to 24 months of probation

*A Customs and Border Patrol officer pleaded guilty of drug smuggling.  He admitted to having been paid to act as a lookout during the transport of the drugs across the country, as well as for delivering the sales proceeds of the drugs back to their home base.  He's been sentenced to 36 months of probation.

*A Customs and Border Patrol officer at Atlanta's airport was convicted of drug trafficking.  This officer used his security badge to bypass detection protocols at the airport and to smuggle money and guns for the drug smugglers.  He's been sentenced to 8 years in prison.

* A Customs and Border Patrol officer in Texas has admitted to repeatedly smuggling dozens of illegal immigrants into the United States for money.  He's been sentenced to 27 months in prison.

* A Customs and Border Patrol officer in Michigan has pleaded guilty to fraudulently altering a visa for an Iranian citizen (presumably to extend the holder's stay).  The officer will spend 24 months on probation.  

*An ICE Enforcement and Removal Officer was convicted of taking bribes totaling at least $28,500 to allow foreign employees of South American-themed restaurants in Illinois to extend their stays in the United States.  He was sentenced to 46 months in prison.

* A Border Patrol agent in Arizona has been convicted of drug trafficking after he used his government patrol vehicle to bypass Border Patrol traffic checkpoints to smuggle drugs into the US.  He was awaiting sentencing at the time the report was written.

*A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services adjudications officer (a type of judge who hears immigration applications) has pleaded guilty to demanding  bribes in return for approving immigration applications.   He's going to spend a whopping 18 months in jail.

*A Detention Officer, contracted by ICE in a Louisiana facility for immigration detainees, pleaded guilty to the Sexual Abuse of a Ward or Minor after sexually assaulting a prisoner in the facility. He got 10 months in jail.

*An airport Transportation Security Officer pleaded guilty after physically assaulting two airport passengers because they were Somali.  He will spend 6 months in jail.

*A Border Patrol Agent was convicted after he punched a fellow agent and held a gun to the fellow agent's head after the fellow agent joked about the excessive amount of tactical gear the BPA routinely wore.  He was sentence to a undisclosed amount of "time served" and fired.

*A Customs and Border Patrol Officer in Michigan pleaded guilty to child porn charges after he used the internet to view child pornography and engage in sexually explicit conversations with young girls on his personal laptop computer.  Officials later found child porn images on his computer as well.  He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

*An airport Transportation Safety Officer was convicted of child porn charges after he routinely used several Internet and social media sites to receive and distribute child pornography. He was initially identified through a picture of him wearing a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) uniform that he posted on a social media site (no one said they're smart).  He was sentenced to serve over ten years in prison.

*After receiving complaints that money and property worth over $30,000 had been stolen from passengers' luggage at the Newark, NJ airport, a Transportation Safety Officer admitted stealing currency from passengers’ carry-on bags as they were being screened at the check in point. He will serve 30 months in prison.

*A Transportation Safety Officer at the Memphis, TN airport was convicted of stealing a laptop computer  from a passenger's luggage.  He was sentenced to 8 months in jail.

*A Transportation Safety Officer at the Orland, FL airport pleaded guilty of stealing more than 80 laptop computers and other electronic devices, valued at $80,000, from passenger luggage and fencing the items in Osceola County, FL. He was sentenced to 24 months of probation.

*An ICE Immigration Enforcement Agent pleaded guilty to charges that, while under surveillance, in uniform, armed and on duty, he purchased crack cocaine while in uniform, armed, and in control of his government-owned vehicle.  He also admitted to introducing contraband cigarettes into a local jail. He received a 60-day jail sentence and 5 years probation.

*A Customs and Border Patrol technician in Boston, MA, and an accomplice pleaded guilty to stealing a U.S. Customs Declaration form that had been filled out by Astronaut Neil Armstrong as he passed through Logan International Airport. The technician and his buddy attempted to sell it on an auction collectibles website.  He's been sentenced to 24 months probation.

*A Border Patrol Agent in North Dakota pleaded guilty to making false statements after he falsely reported that he and his family were being threatened and stalked in order to try to get a transfer to the southwest.  He was awaiting sentencing at the time the report was written.

*An ICE New York Field Office Mission Support Specialist pleaded guilty to "steering" contracts valued at approximately $1 million to three companies in which he or a family member owned.  As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to forfeit cash and property valued at $200,000, and he was sentenced to 6 months of imprisonment, 24 months of supervised release and a $5,000 fine.

*An ICE contract security guard pleaded guilty to receiving money from ICE detainees for the crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, and marijuana that he smuggled into the detention center, and to using cocaine with the detainees while on duty.  He was awaiting sentencing at the time the report was written.

*A Federal Protective Service (federal police) contracting officer, pleaded guilty to conspiracy after receiving bribes of airline tickets, hotel stays, golf expenditures, and the promise of post government employment, in exchange for favorable references that resulted in the continuance of a multimillion-dollar contract for private security services at federal facilities.  He received 36 months probation.

*A Federal Protective Service employee in Maryland  was convicted of engaging in a fraudulent marriage that gained immigration benefits for an unqualified person.  The analyst was convicted and sentenced to 12 months of probation and 4 months of home detention.

*A Department of Homeland Security contract security guard, and his relative, an SBA employee, were convicted of conspiring to fraudulently receive $171,600 in SBA loans based on fraudulent loan documents they submitted to SBA. They were sentenced to 21 months in prison and to repay $85,800.

*A FEMA representative was convicted of using her access to FEMA data systems to steal over $700,000 of benefits from more than 60 eligible FEMA applicants.  She received 82 months in prison, 60 months of probation, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $721,000.

*A company contracted by the Federal Protective Service to provide armed security guards for Federal buildings admitted to intentionally falsifying certifications for firearms, CPR and defibrlilator training, the United Sates Attorney declined to prosecute in favor of a temporary debarment on FPS contracts.

*A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Supervisory Adjudication Officer (head judge) in Fairfax, VA was convicted of  illegally granting residency and falsified documents to more than 100 unqualified immigrants. He received more than $600,000 in bribes to do so. He was sentenced to 180 months in prison.

*A Department of Homeland Security employee in Washington, DC, pleaded guilty to helping a contractor fraudulently obtain a DHS security contract by providing internal DHS information that was used by the contractor to ensure it got the bid on the contract.  He was sentenced to 12 months of probation and barred from future employment with the Federal Government.

*An ICE  Supervisory Special Agent pleaded guilty to stealing between $30,000 and $70,000 in government-owned equipment, including printer cartridges, flashlights, law enforcement equipment, and portable radios, and selling it on eBay.  He pleaded guilty to the thefts, resigned his position and was awaiting sentencing at the time of the report.

*A contractor to United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology pleaded guilty to stealing five DHS laptop computers worth more than $8,000 and selling them to various pawnshops in Maryland. He was sentenced to 12 months of probation and $650 in restitution.

*An ICE Research Specialist pleaded guilty to improperly using his government-issued credit card, and his diplomatic passport, and submitting fraudulent travel vouchers for travel that cost more than $116,000.  He was sentenced to 145 months and 1 day of incarceration and 36 months of supervised release. 
*A Border Patrol Agent pleaded guilty in a tax and mortgage loan scheme in which  he purchased two homes by submitting false loan applications that contained grossly inflated income statements, then allowed the homes to go into foreclosure, resulting in a loss to two financial institutions of approximately $400,000. He later prepared and submitted false income tax returns that claimed the foreclosures as a loss. He pleaded guilty Wire Fraud and Tax Fraud.  His punishment was not specified in the report.

Those are all in one year, 2011, and only the "significant" items that were concluded in that year.   

According to the report, in total,  the Inspector General received and reviewed 19,848 allegations of wrongdoing involving DHS.  Those complaints resulted in 1,389 investigations being initiated, 318 arrests, 206 indictments, and 260 convictions.   In ONE YEAR.  And keep in mind that the Department of Homeland Security is a law enforcement agency--the folks we pay to keep us safe from criminals.

So, let's compare this news to West Nile.  So far this year, out of about 311 million people in the US, 1221 cases and 43 deaths have been reported.   This is about 4 cases per million people, and 1 death per ten million people.  

On the other hand, out of the approximately 225,000 people working for DHS, 260 were convicted in 2011 of a crime.   That means that at least 1 per 1000 DHS workers are criminals.   That would work out to 1,000 per 1 million, or 10,000 per 10 million.  So, DHS workers are 10,000 times more likely to be criminals than you are to die of West Nile. 

How about this?  Just in the "significant" case descriptions, there are listed 10 concluded cases of DHS workers trafficking drugs.  Out of 225,000 total workers, that comes out to 440 cases per ten million.  In other words, it's about 440 times as likely that a DHS worker is a drug trafficker than that he or she (or you) will die of West Nile.

Even pedophiles are well represented.  In the "significant" case listings, there are two concluded cases of DHS workers in possession of and trafficking child pornography.  2 per 225,000, or almost 9 cases per million.  So, statistically, you are 9 times more likely to have a pedophile in charge of patting down your kid or grandkid as you pass through an airport, than to die of West Nile. 

Now, I do recall hearing a snippet here or there on the news about some of this type of allegation regarding the DHS.  But, nothing even approaching the wall-to-wall coverage that West Nile is getting.  I haven't heard of Matt Lauer sitting down on the Today show with his earnest little face, getting up in the grill  of a DHS official about the "epidemic" of criminality in the government agencies charged with keeping us "safe,"  have you?

And even though this report has just been released (as of August 12), when I Googled "Department of Homeland Security" just now, on the first page of results, I got several DHS websites, a couple of news stories about supposed "threats" that are being talked about by DHS, and ONE, just one story about impropriety in the agency--a sexual harassment allegation against the ICE Chief of Staff.   In other words, not a peep about this report or the cases described in it.  

So, why is that?  Why do we hear so much hype and doom about a rather remote danger, and so precious little about the fact that our government is peppered with pedophiles, drug dealers, bribe takers, and thieves?  Well, my guess is because we get told just exactly what they want us to know.  

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