CBP’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) continues to experience challenges managing searches of electronic devices, like those identified in its first audit report, CBP’s Searches of Electronic Devices at Ports of Entry, issued in December 2018, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said.
Specifically, OFO did not properly document and conduct searches of electronic devices, fully assess the effectiveness of the electronic device search program, or adequately manage electronic device search equipment, OIG said. This occurred because, although it plans to do so, OFO has not yet fully implemented corrective actions for four of the five recommendations in the previous audit report, including establishing training for staff.
According to an OFO official, there have been delays fully implementing the prior recommendations due to reviews of existing policy and a capabilities analysis report, and the need to develop additional training. In addition, OFO did not have adequate processes for auditing electronic device searches, track prosecutions and convictions resulting from referrals to other federal agencies, or adequately monitor search equipment usage, functionality, and inventory.
Unless it corrects previously identified deficiencies and better manages searches and equipment, OFO will limit its ability to detect and deter illegal activities related to terrorism; national security; human, drug, and bulk cash smuggling; and child pornography, OIG concluded.
OIG made five recommendations to improve CBP’s oversight of searches of electronic devices at POEs. CBP concurred with all five recommendations.
The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA) requires U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to establish standard operating procedures (SOP) for searching, reviewing, retaining, and sharing information in communication, electronic, or digital devices at U.S. ports of entry (POE). TFTEA also requires the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to conduct three annual audits to determine to what extent CBP conducted searches of electronic devices at POEs in accordance with its SOPs. This is the second audit in the series.