Hundreds of badges, credentials, cell phones and guns belonging to Department of Homeland Security employees have been lost or stolen in recent years — raising serious security concerns about the potential damage these missing items could do in the wrong hands.
Inventory reports, obtained by the news site Complete Colorado show that over 1,300 badges, 165 firearms and 589 cell phones were lost or stolen over the span of 31 months between 2012 and 2015.
The majority of the credentials belonged to employees of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), while others belonged to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employees. The lost or stolen guns also mostly belonged to CBP employees, though others were cited as belonging to TSA and ICE workers. The agencies all fall under DHS.
The missing badges and guns suggest a shocking lack of security from federal law enforcement officers and represent a significant security risk, experts say.
It’s scary that you’d have that number of credentials out there that someone could manipulate.
While Miller said the phones are likely to have enough protocols in place to prevent them from being used for nefarious purposes, the badges and credentials are an entirely different matter and could allow access to sensitive areas such as cargo.
“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,” Miller said. “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.”
When reached for comment, DHS did not dispute the inventory report data — which Complete Colorado, a Colorado-based online news site, had obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. The reporter who obtained the data also works with Denver-based free-market think tank the Independence Institute.