A lack of cooperation between the FBI and Homeland Security has negatively affected criminal investigations along the U.S-Mexican border, according to a report Thursday by two government watchdogs.
The inspectors general for the Justice and Homeland Security departments surveyed 2,948 agents from both the FBI and Homeland Security assigned to the Southwest border. While the majority of agents reported strong cooperation between the agencies, more than a third of those surveyed said cooperation failures have hurt investigations.
Sixty-three percent of surveyed agents reported no cooperation problems, while 37 percent said they experienced a cooperation failure.
The lack of cooperation resulted in a loss of trust in the other agency, wasted resources or failure to apprehend a target, according to the report.
Failure to understand the other agency’s mission and authority, jurisdictional conflicts and inconsistent policies were among the reasons for the cooperation failures, the report found.
In one instance, Homeland Security investigators allowed the subject of an FBI search warrant to return “valuable” evidence to an acquittance before the FBI arrived on the scene, the report found. Homeland security did not notify the FBI of their actions.
“Trust issues between FBI and HSI agents have likely contributed to the reported cooperation failures and their resulting impacts,” the report said. “Many agents cited lack of trust as both a cause of failing to resolve conflicts and an effect of negative interactions with the other agency”
The inspectors general recommended the agencies jointly develop a memorandum of understanding outline responsibilities when investigations overlap, provide training to agents on each agency’s policies among other policy changes.
While the FBI agreed with the recommendations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is under Homeland Security, pushed back against creating the joint memorandum of understanding. They said it was not suitable because so many of their investigations overlap and extend to other investigations.
“A Southwest border MOU would be counterproductive and restrictive, thus preventing HSI field leadership from developing local practices and policies that are more efficient and reflective of the working dynamics with the FBI, prosecutors and other law enforcement partners,” ICE said in a written response included in the report.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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