Tuesday, October 26, 2021

CBP Agents' Violent Facebook Posts Netted Scant Discipline


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Facebook -- and its power -- has been in the news.  But here is an especially troubling Facebook story for you.

The report includes a jarring trigger warning:


This report reproduces content of a sensitive, offensive, discriminatory, and sexual nature. This
content is included in the report to provide a clear record of social media misconduct by Customs
and Border Protection employees."

The Executive Summary includes the following:

"This staff report presents the findings of an investigation launched in 2019 by the Committee on Oversight and Reform into violent and offensive posts by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel in secret Facebook groups. The most  prominent of these groups, a private group for Border Patrol agents called “I’m 10-15,” had more than 9,500 members in July 2019. The Committee’s investigation followed alarming media reports of CBP employees threatening harm to migrants and elected officials on the `I’m 10-15' page. 

The Committee requested documents from CBP in July 2019 to determine whether agents who posted this content were allowed to continue working with migrants and to assess whether appropriate disciplinary action was taken. After the Trump Administration obstructed this inquiry for more than a year, CBP finally began producing complete unredacted documents in
February 2021, after President Trump left office.

Documents obtained by the Committee show that although CBP was aware of misconduct on `I’m 10-15' since August 2016, the agency took minimal action to strengthen social media training or guidance after the media began reporting on agents’ misconduct and the Committee launched its investigation in 2019.

The Committee found that CBP conducted 135 investigations into personnel affiliated with `I’m 10-15' and similar secret Facebook groups. The agency determined that 60 CBP agents engaged in misconduct and were subject to discipline. However, the discipline imposed on most of those agents was significantly reduced from the recommendation made by CBP’s
Discipline Review Board. Eighteen agents whom the Board recommended removing from their positions due to serious misconduct had their discipline reduced to suspensions. One proposed removal was reduced to a letter of reprimand, and another was reduced to an `oral admonishment.' Most of these agents were then allowed to resume working with migrants and children."

Here are some incidents documented in the report:

"• A Border Patrol agent who posted a sexually explicit doctored image and derogatory comments about a Member of Congress had his discipline reduced from removal to a 60-day suspension and was awarded back pay.

• A Border Patrol supervisor who improperly posted an internal CBP video of a migrant falling off a cliff to their death, as well as an explicit and offensive comment about a Member of Congress, had their discipline reduced from removal to a 30-day suspension.

• A Border Patrol agent with a history of multiple infractions was allowed to retire with disability benefits rather than face removal or any other discipline after posting a photograph of a drowned father and child and referring derisively to them as `floaters.'" (bold added).



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