Was Removal of Border Patrol Abuse Investigator just a Cover-Up for a Failed System?

Sunday, June 15, 2014
James Tomsheck

The removal of a senior Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official has raised questions about whether the decision demonstrated accountability from the embattled agency or an attempt to cover up its mistakes.


Border Patrol agents and other employees have been accused of misconduct, abuse and corruption. At least 28 people have been killed by CBP personnel since 2010, and an internal review of the agency’s shooting policy was kept under wraps for more than a year before coming to light.


In light of these troubles, CBP’s head of internal affairs for the past eight years, James F. Tomsheck, was moved to another assignment this week. Tomsheck’s supporters say he was made a scapegoat for a system that wasn’t interested in righting its wrongs.


 “With very serious misconduct–borderline criminal activity–senior management often gave Border Patrol agents a slap on the wrist or did nothing at all,” James Wong, former deputy to Tomsheck, told The Center for Investigative Reporting. “Senior managers thwarted our ability to conduct complete investigations.”


Wong used a 2010 shooting as an example. Sergio Hernández Guereca, a 15-year-old Mexican citizen was killed near El Paso, Texas. The inspector general, senior Customs and Border Protection officials and others blocked the internal affairs office from learning significant information about the shooting, Wong said. The agent involved was not prosecuted.


According to records requested by the Los Angeles Times, at least 22 people were killed and many more injured by Border Patrol agents from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2013. Hundreds of complaints were filed charging misconduct by officers, including beatings and sexual abuse. Only 14 agents were disciplined during that period, according to the Times


The agency is taking the unusual step of seeking outside help. CBP chief Gil Kerlikowske has asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide a senior agent to act as the border agency’s head of internal affairs.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Removal of Border Agency’s Internal Affairs Chief Raises Alarms (by Andrew Becker, Center for Investigative Reporting)

Border Agency Removes Its Own Chief Of Internal Affairs (by Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times)

Government Report Critical of Border Patrol Finally Released after 15 Months(by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Border Patrol Used Dubious Tactics to Create Pretext to Justify Shootings; CBP Tried to Bury Scathing Report (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Suna 4 years ago
www.allprolegal.com In truth I have only had one other position and that was Head of Technical Services at a company that made biomedical research tools (Bethesda Research Labs). There I learned that helping the customer was essential for survival of the company. I carried that attitude with me when I came back to NIH (I had been a fellow and staff scientist at NCI before joining the company) and found that working with others at the NIH really built the sense of community that makes the NIH different.
John Carman 6 years ago
I am former U.S. Customs and a Whistle-blower since 1995 and this information confirms that there was and still is corruption inside the Customs Service. Internal Affairs is the worst and needs to be investigated for their cover ups and protecting the "agency" more than the Country and willing to sacrifice good officers/agents who did their jobs like I did for approximately 16 years with commendations. Having "polygraphs" will NOT insure better employees or prevent corruption as it is only a "tool" to measure certain responses. Polygraphs were determined NOT to be reliable at the Federal level many years ago and are NOT usually used for employment anymore. Customs still hasn't investigated what I have reported as National Security failures initiated by people like John Heinrich the former Director in Long Beach(Over flight list) See also: www.customscorruption.com The Death Threats and retaliation still hasn't stopped.
Federale 6 years ago
Sorry, CBP IA was not involved in the Guereca shooting investigation, the DHS OIG and FBI did the investigation.
Doug PolygraphCom 6 years ago
I tell the whole sordid story of OPERATION LIE BUSTERS in Chapter 18 of my book FROM COP THE CRUSADER: THE STORY OF MY FIGHT AGAINST THE DANGEROUS MYTH OF "LIE DETECTION". It is available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and on my website.
Doug PolygraphCom 6 years ago
James F. Tomsheck and the whole Internal Affairs Unit of the CBP should not only be investigated, they should be prosecuted! This investigation should also include a very thorough investigation into the actions of Special Agent Douglas Robbins of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Internal Affairs, CBP Senior Special Agent Fred C. Ball, Jr. and CBP polygraph unit chief John R. Schwartz. They all neglected their duty, choosing instead to mount a vicious and unlawful attack on me. Instead of "investigating individual cases of alleged wrongdoing" they put their emphasis "toward assisting other agencies, including the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Homeland Security inspector general" - i.e. "OPERATION LIE BUSTERS". During "OPERATION LIE BUSTERS", they spent thousands of man hours and untold amounts of money trying to persecute and intimidate me, (and others) for telling the truth about the waste, fraud and abuse in their polygraph unit. Rather than do the job they were assigned to do (internal affairs investigations), they conducted an unscrupulous, unconstitutional attack on me! Robbins himself told me that they had been investigating me for over three years! Schwartz, one of the men behind "OPERATION LIE BUSTERS", said he thought that those who “protest the loudest and the longest” against polygraph testing “are the ones that I believe we need to focus our attention on.” And so it was that James F. Tomsheck and his crew hatched a plan to "focus attention" on the one man who best fit this description, the man all polygraph operators have hated for almost forty years - one who helped put tens of thousands of them out of business in 1988 with the passage of the EPPA - yours truly, Douglas G Williams. The "Schwartz" quoted there is John Schwartz, a Customs and Border Patrol official who is involved in the investigations. So, yeah, that's a federal government agent specifically claiming that he wants to focus his criminal investigatory power on those who speak out against polygraph testing (rather than do the job he was assigned to do - investigating allegations of wrong doing in his own agency). One blogger, commenting on the investigation of me, put it this way: "That sounds a hell of a lot like a police state, where federal agents publicly declare that they're going to use their criminal investigation powers to target people who oppose a program they support. Talk about chilling effects and a massive First Amendment violation. To have a federal official, with investigatory power, who’s already involved in existing investigations flat out say that he wants to target those who speak out, is incredible. That's not the way our government is supposed to work." This story goes much deeper than the "lack of diligence" in doing their job, and I hope there is an in-depth investigation. These men all used (misused, and abused) the power of their office and violated my constitutional rights under color of law. This is a story of how a group of pro-polygraph men, most of whom are polygraph operators, used their authority as federal agents in pursuit of a personal vendetta against me. They should not only be investigated, they should be prosecuted!

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