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Former Customs chief accuses agency of cover-ups

James Tomsheck says he was removed as chief of internal affairs at Border Patrol after he blew the whistle on widespread corruption inside the agency.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   Aug. 15, 2014 at 4:14 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- The former head of internal affairs at U.S. Customs at Border Protection said the agency has serious problems with accountability and corruption.

James Tomsheck, who was recently removed as the head of the internal affairs office but remains the executive director of national programs of Border Patrol, said of the more than two dozen people have been killed in violent confrontations by the CBP since 2010, at least a quarter were "highly suspect."

Additionally, he said, no agent or official has faced either criminal charges or even a public official reprimand.

Tomsheck said officials regularly changed details in reports to make the incidents appear to be "a good shoot."

"In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand," he said, in an expansive interview with the Center for Investigative Reporting.

He accused the Border Patrol of suffering "institutional narcissism," and the CBP sees itself as above "constitutional constraints" despite reports of widespread corruption.

"It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community," Tomsheck said. "The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization."

Tomsheck was reassigned June 9 after eight years as the assistant commissioner for internal affairs. He spoke to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee in that capacity, and has filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint since his reassignment.

His then-deputy, James Wong, corroborated his former boss' accusations.

CBP leadership "did not want an independent internal affairs," Wong said. "They wanted someone who would do what they wanted to do."

Tomsheck said he believes thousands of CBP employees may be unfit for duty, especially because of the agency's rapid expansion following 9/11. While about 170 CBP employees were arrested or convicted in corruption-related charges since 2004, Tomsheck says the number has slowed dramatically in the past few years.

And he said CBP's failure to specifically authorize inquiries meant Border Patrol leadership stepped in before Tomsheck's office could conduct their investigations.

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