GAO to DHS: Examine Feasibility of Polygraphing All Border Patrol Agents

Dennis M. Crowley | August 29, 2013 | 4:08pm EDT
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A Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol agent pats down a man before he is returned to Mexico. (Photo: CBP/Gerald L. Nino)

( - A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining the integrity training programs and procedures of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) called for CBP to consider “expanding” its polygraph program to “incumbent officers and agents”

“We recommended that CBP … assess the feasibility of expanding the polygraph program to incumbent officers and agents,” the GAO report said.

According to the report, CPB already subjected applicants to “background investigations and polygraph examinations” and incumbent CBP officers and Border Patrol agents to “random drug tests and periodic reinvestigations” to guard against corruption and misconduct.

Internal Affairs (IA) officials at CPB responded by stating “they were considering implementing a polygraph requirement for incumbent employees, but that CPB had not yet assessed the feasibility of expanding the program beyond applicants.”

CPB established a quality assurance program in 2008 to review, on a monthly basis, no more than 5 percent of all completed investigations [polygraph, background] to ensure the quality and timeliness of the investigations and to identify any deficiencies in the investigation process, the GAO report also found.

As of September 2012, CPB officials stated that they had not consistently completed the monthly checks because they had prioritized resources to screen applicants to meet hiring goals.

The report found that CPB’s integrity related training courses are systematic and integrated because they are provided in succession throughout an officer’s and agent’s career at the basic and supervisory levels, as well as on an annual basis.

CPB had not finalized its comprehensive integrity strategy as called for in its Fiscal Year 2009-2014 Strategic Plan, the report said.

In response to the recommendation in the December 2012 report that CPB set target timelines for completing and implementing a comprehensive integrity strategy, CPB set a timeline for completing the strategy by May 2013, the GAO said.

As of early July 2013, CPB officials stated the strategy was undergoing final clearance within the agency, and CPB has not yet set timelines for its implementation.

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