S1:E13 Department of Homeland Secrecy

26 Aug 2020

Show Notes

Maybe we did name the Department of Homeland Security correctly? When looking at its present missions one sees very historical overtones in Homeland and Security and secrecy. DHS rapidly rose to be the 3rd largest federal agency and now almost no transparency.




Maybe we did name the Department of Homeland Security correctly? When looking at its present missions one sees very historical overtones in Homeland and Security and secrecy. DHS rapidly rose to be the 3rd largest federal agency and now almost no transparency.

I am growing resentful the term “Homeland”. The word has messy historical connotations, doesn’t it? And for a nation that worked hard for a couple of centuries at not having a federal security force, we created one. We now have a federal security agency for domestic with a web-like mission that spills over everywhere: surveillance, intelligence gathering, law enforcement, border security, and as demonstrated in 2020 the ability to provide military-like strike teams on the homeland operating without invitation, oversight, or coordination with state and local officials.

As a nation, we avoided a national security force and a national police force because we are a federated group of states. About a century ago, we created the FBI to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States. While the FBI certainly has an ugly history, individual FBI agents today are often recognized as well-qualified professional investigators and law enforcement officers. And to the delight of nearly every local cop, the NYPD tends to be larger than the FBI, and NYPD is sometimes recognized at gathering domestic and foreign intelligence as well or better than the FBI. That just helps keep the rivalries healthy. The FBI budget is about $10 Billion. NYPD budget, about $6Billion.

I’d like help in finding out how many DHS staff members are sworn law enforcement officers? Anybody know? Hit me on twitter @cmoore_sp or email me. I can’t find that information.

DHS has a quarter of a million staff members aggregating 22 agencies. We created this agency in response to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Most federal, state, local, and tribal agencies make a distinction between one who is a sworn law enforcement officer and one who is not. There is training, credentialing, and often more. Most sworn officers must qualify at routine intervals with their firearms. Most must undergo continuing education – X hours per Y months. My paramedic license required a minimum of 100 hours per 24 months and proficiency demonstrations.

A search for Homeland Security law enforcement yields significant results from American cities such as Portland and others.

40 U.S. Code section 1315 provides the secretary of Homeland Security to designate employees as law enforcement agent. They may enforce federal laws, carry firearms, make arrests without a warrant. They can arrest if they have reasonable grounds to believe a person has committed a felony.

Homeland security employees may conduct investigations, on and off federal property. They may investigate offices that may have been committed against property owned by or occupied by the federal government.

And the catch all phrase U.S. Code section 1315 B Officers and Agents 2 powers F: carry out such other activities for the promotion of homeland security as the secretary may prescribe.

§1315. Law enforcement authority of Secretary of Homeland Security for protection of public property
(a) In General.-To the extent provided for by transfers made pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Secretary of Homeland Security (in this section referred to as the "Secretary") shall protect the buildings, grounds, and property that are owned, occupied, or secured by the Federal Government (including any agency, instrumentality, or wholly owned or mixed-ownership corporation thereof) and the persons on the property.
(b) Officers and Agents.-
(1) Designation.-The Secretary may designate employees of the Department of Homeland Security, including employees transferred to the Department from the Office of the Federal Protective Service of the General Services Administration pursuant to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as officers and agents for duty in connection with the protection of property owned or occupied by the Federal Government and persons on the property, including duty in areas outside the property to the extent necessary to protect the property and persons on the property.
(2) Powers.-While engaged in the performance of official duties, an officer or agent designated under this subsection may-
(A) enforce Federal laws and regulations for the protection of persons and property;
(B) carry firearms;
(C) make arrests without a warrant for any offense against the United States committed in the presence of the officer or agent or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if the officer or agent has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony;
(D) serve warrants and subpoenas issued under the authority of the United States;
(E) conduct investigations, on and off the property in question, of offenses that may have been committed against property owned or occupied by the Federal Government or persons on the property; and
(F) carry out such other activities for the promotion of homeland security as the Secretary may prescribe.

40USC 1315

240,000 DHS employees can be designed law enforcement agents with a pen stroke. Let’s hope that this means that the employee has been trained in law enforcement, been trained in civil rights, and demonstrated competence with the weapons carried.

How Many DHS Law Enforcement Agents are there?

120,000 plus or minus 120,000


120,000 with a margin of error of 100%.

Operations, Personnel, Training, Arrests, Detentions?

Is information about the operations, personnel, training, arrests, and detentions made by this federal security force transparent?

It is not particularly transparent.

Let’s explore anyway.

DHS Office of Inspector General Reports

The link for OIG reports shift with time. Here is the generic link:

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) – 9 reports in 2020. 12 reports in 2019. 11 reports in 2016.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – 4 reports in 2020. 9 reports in 2019. 8 reports in 2016.

Transportation Security Agency (TSA) –2 reports in 2020. 5 reports in 2019. 6 reports in 2016.

US Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) – 0 reports in 2020. 1 in 2019. 6 reports in 2016.

Coast Guard – 2020: 2, 2019, 5; 2016, 3

Secret Service – 2020: None. 2019: None. 2018: None. 2017: 5. And 2016: 5.

DHS-OIG Reports

The OIG normally does at least a financial audit of agencies annually. Well, they go hire an accounting firm to do a financial audit.

In the recent years, the OIG appears to be writing fewer reports. The OIG’s reports inform the American voters about the good, benign, and bad. They tend to be densely written in gov-speak. It is like peeking through a fence. They are not complete pictures of anything, just little hints.

OIG Report 14-20

2015 finding on the Secret Service identified deficiencies in confidential financial disclosure; ineffective controls in seized property; ineffective controls over time and attendance approvals; ineffective controls for expense and invoice controls. Often when there is a news splash on gross misconduct, an OIG report follows in the year later. In the spring of 2013, Secret Service agents had some rousing parties overseas. And OIG report 14-20 is entitled “Adequacy of USSS Efforts to Identify, Mitigate, and Address instances of misconduct and inappropriate behavior”.

The 144 pages is so boring, I gave up reading it. The section heads give a clue:

  • internal controls are insufficient;
  • disciplinary measures are insufficient;
  • noncompliance with federal disciplinary regulations; etc.

The bad conduct of agents in Columbia in 2013 was not an isolated incident and management seemed a bit permissive.

Check; got it.

The most interesting reading this week in August of 2020 comes from OIG report 20-56 published 23 JUL 2020. This report confirms that DHS fails to comply with the Freedom of Information Act – also called FOIA.

Congress enacted FOIA to give the public access to information in the Federal Government. The Supreme Court has explained that “[t]he basic purpose of FOIA is to ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society, needed to check against corruption and to hold the governors accountable to the governed.”

Responses are due within 20 days unless records are protected from disclosure by one of a few exemptions. The requester can then sue.

Congress has broad authority to obtain information from DHS. This is supported by the Supreme Court supports the congress’ oversight and ability to obtain information.

OIG found that DHS did not track requests nor enumerate requests it processes with details.

The FOIA team at DHS does not have sufficient electronic storage space to receive and process the documents – also causing delays.

The team is under staff – also causing delays.

Some FOIA responses were delay by more than a year. Without adequate server capacity to receive responsive email, the FOIA team exceeded statutory deadlines by more than 200 days. By the way, we are talking about files of 40Gb. In human terms: This is thumb-drive territory. 40Gb is a few days of research for a small team of people; 80 hours of audio records… 12 hours of video on YouTube.

DHS OpenData

772 data sets of which 678 are public in the OpenData set. Don’t get too excited by this openness. I can find FedEx facilities and Jewish Synagogues. Of the 772 lines of data sets, Jew shows up once. Muslim: none. Christian: None. So our government maps the location of Jewish synagogues, but no other religion.  

I searched for the word arrest. There are 25 data sets that include the word arrest. None are more current than 2014 – six years ago. Primarily, these are the yearbook of immigration statistics. Most of these data sets deal with ports, harbors, rails, and infrastructure stuff. There is a disproportional interest in the cost of Coast Guard dental care. I have no idea why, and I also did not look.

When I look for the term staff – no new data since 2016.


What would you like to look for if they actually posted public data?

If they are, in fact, our largest and most powerful law enforcement agency, don’t you think that their law enforcement activities and conduct should be discoverable?

I do.

Is this the nation’s rather secretive national security force?

I’d like to see a bit more. Even Boston Police does better! Granted the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not yet complying with their law regarding law enforcement data. I trust they will get there. NYPD makes an effort!