US Investigating 2,000 Officials for Possible Drug Cartel Ties: Report

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More than 2,000 US officials have been investigated this year for ties to organized crime, particularly on the Mexican and Canadian borders, reports El Universal — a figure which points to widespread corruption.

The officials include police officers and border patrol agents, according to Department of Homeland Security sources quoted by Mexican newspaper El Universal. Accusations against agents include protecting and escorting drug shipments, spying, and identifying informants, as well as trafficking drugs on behalf of Mexican criminal groups. 

A report commissioned by US congressmen found that the internal affairs division of US Customs and Border Protection did not have mechanisms in place to obtain and analyze information on agents such as criminal records and polygraph tests.

The internal affairs division is also under investigation for allegedly covering up employee misconduct, according to McClatchy.

InSight Crime Analysis

One driver of corruption among border agents could be the rapid increase in their numbers. The ranks of US border patrol agents doubled between 2004 and 2011 to over 21,000, and there are another 21,000 customs and border protection officers, with plans to recruit a further 2,000, making it the highest ever operational force.

In 2012, the nephew of former Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen testified that the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel had succeeded in corrupting US officials, and that he had personally given bribes to border patrol and customs agents. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the US-Mexico Border

US border patrol officials have been accused of abusing migrants, facilitating human smuggling and trafficking weapons for cartels, in addition to aiding in drug trafficking operations. In response to concerns about corruption, the US Government Accountability Office wrote a letter to lawmakers in 2013 (pdf) emphasizing the need for integrity training in the Customs and Border Patrol Agency.

With Customs and Border Protection agents inspecting more than 66,000 cargo containers a day and screening close to a million international travelers, corruption in the ranks represents both a serious threat to interdiction efforts and a major opportunity for drug traffickers. 

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