According to a spreadsheet of lost, damaged and destroyed items, various agencies inside the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported over 1,300 badges and credentials lost or stolen, and no fewer than 165 firearms lost or stolen over the course of 31 months*.
Officials with DHS responded to an email seeking comment, but the response did not provide meaningful answers to questions about the losses, or the potential for security problems as a result. Additionally, DHS did not provide any numbers that would have put such losses into context, such as the number of badges and guns issued across each agency.
Complete Colorado exclusively obtained the inventory under the Freedom of Information Act, and shared the document with Fox News.
Almost 900 of the 1,300 lost or stolen badges or credentials were from the sub-agency Customs and Border Protection (CBP); about 300 were under the responsibility of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and approximately 200 were responsible to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Michael Brown, former Undersecretary of Homeland Security and Director of FEMA, said the lost badges and credentials represents a serious enough security problem to warrant an investigation by the DHS inspector general.
“Law enforcement credentials, badges or ID cards can be used to access areas closed to the public, restricted access areas, and allow a person to pose as a law enforcement official where lax inspection of the credential to match it with the person carrying it allows that person entry to restricted areas,” Brown told Complete Colorado by email. “Possession of these kinds of credentials gives terrorists or criminals the basic information needed to counterfeit other credentials.”
“For example,” Brown continued, “a terrorist cell could use these credentials or counterfeited credentials to access public events posing as law enforcement officials, bypassing security measures designed to detect explosives or other contraband.”
Of the 165 lost and stolen firearms on the inventory, just under half were under the responsibility of CBP, with most of the remainder responsible to ICE, except for a small handful lost by employees of the Transportation Security Administration. 31 of the total firearms were classified as lost, and all but two of the rest were listed as stolen.
The true accounting of the number of lost versus stolen firearms may be inaccurate, however, as the government has previously indicated that law enforcement officers tend to report lost firearms as stolen “due to a common perception among officers that reporting a stolen firearm was more acceptable than reporting a lost firearm.”
The firearm tally may represent an improvement in the number of lost weapons per year by DHS. A 2010 report by the DHS Inspector General totaled 289 lost firearms for a nearly similar comparison period of three full fiscal years. That audit claimed DHS had over 188,000 firearms issued over eight component agencies, meaning the 165 lost firearms roughly represents losses of less than one-tenth of a single percent.
The inventory also listed roughly 360 computers lost, with those losses distributed amongst several DHS agencies.
Your author previously reported that DHS lost over 1,000 computers in fiscal year 2008 alone.
The spreadsheet inventory supplied in response to the FOIA request has changed in recent years. Most notably it no longer includes a column for the estimated cost of each item lost, stolen or damaged.
Download the spreadsheet provided in response to the FOIA request here.
*The inventory record begins in October, 2012, and ends with the inclusion of April, 2015.