If you thought misplacing your keys was bad, the Department of Homeland Security has you beat hands down.
According to inventory reports obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, the DHS has lost hundreds of firearms, badges, credentials and cell phones since 2012.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) all reported missing badges and credentials.
The biggest losers of guns were CBP employees, though ICE and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also reported missing weapons.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the United States of America has a gigantic security problem. The guns are actually less of a worry than the thousands of police credentials that are now floating around in the hands of who knows what type of criminals.
Given that the agencies reporting the losses mostly have to do with border control and tracking immigrants, we can probably safely make a ballpark guess that some of those credentials and weapons have ended up in the hands of drug cartel members and possibly Islamist terror groups.
Forget the sheer embarrassment of a federal department whose agencies are dedicated to national security not being able to secure its own property. The people charged with protecting us have helped create a gaping hole in our defenses.
In the hands of clever criminals or terrorists, real credentials can be modified to allow access to any range of secure facilities. Just contemplate a terrorist able to bluff his way into an airliner loading dock, or a daring cartel member walking into a police armory or evidence locker.
There may be methods for locking down the cellphones, but there’s always a way around technical security for an experienced hacker, and even DHS cellphones may find a use in criminal activities.
Fox News quoted retired Secret Service special agent Tim Miller, who said, “The thing that’s particularly concerning is that if you get real credentials, it’s very easy to manipulate them, and you’ve got someone else’s picture on what law enforcement would see as valid. Then you factor in terrorism, it’s a significant concern that people would run around with authentic credentials and be able to access areas they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.”
Some of those credentials have apparently been used to do just that. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in December approved legislation that would tighten TSA security regulations and screening of workers after the committee received reports of stolen badges being used to bypass security checkpoints.
Committee chairman Sen. John Thune said, “When the Commerce Committee looked at lost and missing airport security credentials, we discovered that existing rules weren’t being effectively enforced.”
The DHS occasionally likes to issue reports about “home-grown” terrorism threats, but with lackadaisical attitudes toward security like the department has exhibited, it sounds like the real danger may come from an overbearing, incompetent government.