December 11, 2018 A new audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG) evidences that Customs and Border Patrol personnel failed to follow standard operating procedures (SOP) designed to detect and deter illegal activities related to national security and terrorism.
The OIG report concluded that with very little supervision at the CBP, 67% of the cases include incomplete or inaccurate information. Personal data collected from people entering the United States is not documented properly and the data is stored in non-secure locations where it can easily be stolen or lost.
According to DHS there are two types of electronic device searches, primary inspections and advanced searches. CBP Office of Field Operations (OFO) is responsible for determining the admissibility of travelers at U.S. ports of entry. OFO officers conduct primary inspections of all travelers arriving at ports of entry. During a primary inspection, OFO officers review all travelers’ passports and other documents to decide whether to admit travelers to the United States or refer them for an advanced search. Both types of searches are completely legal and do not require any warrants.
The OIG report, titled CBP’s Searches of Electronic Devices at Ports of Entry audit revealed shortcomings in supervision, guidance, and equipment management, combined with a lack of performance measures, limit OFO’s ability to detect and deter illegal activities related to terrorism; national security; human, drug, and bulk cash smuggling; and child pornography.
<blockquote>”A secondary inspection may involve a basic (manual) search, an advanced search, or both. The officer can make a referral for a manual search because of inconsistencies in response, behavioral analysis, or intelligence analysis. A manual search involves the OFO officer manually reviewing the information on a traveler’s electronic device.”</blockquote>
During secondary searches, electronic devices, such as computers, thumb drives, and mobile phones, are subject to search at U.S. ports of entry to ensure the enforcement of immigration, customs, and other Federal laws. However, OIG investigators determined that OFO officers did not follow standard operating procedures.
<blockquote>”OFO officers did not consistently disconnect electronic devices,specifically cell phones, from networks before searching them because headquarters provided inconsistent guidance to the ports of entry on disabling data connections on electronic devices. OFO also did not adequately manage technology to effectively support search operations and ensure the security of data.” </blockquote>
The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, (TFTEA), enacted in February, 2016 requires CBP to establish standard operating procedures (SOP) for searching, reviewing, retaining, and sharing information contained in communication, electronic, or digital devices encountered at U.S. ports of entry. CBP must review and update these SOPs every 3 years.