Program to automate immigration processing is vulnerable to insider threats"

Hi Gang:
Here is a report that appeared on February 25th in “Next Gov” an online news source that deals with issues concerning our government.  This article addressed the unfuriating and disturbing story about how USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) has, once again, proven its ineptitude and incompetence in carrying our an important mission that involves serious national security issues.
Here is the link to the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) report that the Next Gov article was predicated upon:

http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_11-33_Jan11.pdf

Here are some excerpts from the article you need to pay attention to:

Frank Deffer, assistant IG for information technology audits, listed the project and its vulnerability to insider threats as among the “most prevalent, high impact areas of concern” in his review of measures U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is taking to guard IT systems and data against dangers that employees and contractors pose. Most USCIS personnel mentioned Transformation during on-site interviews the auditors conducted.

The
IG 
report underscores
the importance of preventing tampering so that residency papers are
not granted to potential terrorists. Its release coincides with a
thwarted bomb plot in Texas allegedly perpetrated by a Saudi Arabian
citizen who was legally in the United States on a student visa. 

“Insiders
at USCIS have perpetrated fraud in the past,” the audit stated.
“USCIS insiders are capable of granting legal residency or
citizenship status to someone who poses a national security risk to
the United States.”

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on Thursday said the incident in his home state represents a failure of the immigration system to screen applicants. 

Based on a “review of the requirements for fraud detection and national security issues, it appears there are no requirements to address insider threats” to Transformation, Deffer wrote. The report describes the project specifications as detailed and comprehensive but silent on the issue of obstructing malicious insiders. Fraud detection in program documents refers to deception committed by applicants and petitioners — not federal personnel. 

When the discussion of immigration comes up almost inevitably and invariably the conversation will turn to the issue of the Mexican border and the failures to construct a fence or take other steps to secure that border against the unauthorized entry of aliens into our country.
Clearly the issue of the lack of security at both of our nation’s borders are important.  I have come to refer to the issue of the border fence as being comparable to a wing on an airplane.  Without a wing an airplane will not fly- however, a wing by itself is certainly not an airplane and won’t go anywhere!
Most television programs that address immigration like to focus on the borders or at the least on images of the special agents of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) clad in raid gear, making arrests.  This is, I suppose, understandable.  Television is a visual medium and the image of illegal aliens running our borders or the image of agents making arrests is easy to understand and possesses a bit of drama.
What is almost never discussed is the process by which aliens apply for visas at the American embassies or consulates overseas or file for immigration benefits here in the United States.
Of course a few movies did address the concept of aliens who entered into fraud marriages in order to qualify for being granted resident alien status- the most recent of those films was “The Proposal” which starred Sandra Bullock.  The film was entertaining as have been a couple of other such films.  There was no hint of the serious implications that such fraud schemes have for our nation’s security or for the integrity of the immigration system.  Indeed, immigration must be thought of as a system.  It is not just the border fence.  It is not just apprehending illegal aliens working illegally at various jobs.  Immigration is a system that is, first and foremost, supposed to protect our nation and our citizens.
Time and again, as I have noted in a number of my commentaries, USCIS has failed to restore any meaningful integrity to the bureaucracy that is responsible for adjudicating applications to provide aliens in our country with a variety of immigration benefits including the conferring of resident alien status and even United States citizenship upon aliens.
Resident alien status is signified by the issuance, to the alien, of an Alien Registration Card- often referred to a “Green Card” or a “PERM” card because of the concerted effort to strike the term “Alien” from the vernacular.
Aliens who are given lawful immigrant status are on the pathway to United States citizenship.  Both resident alien status and United States citizenship should be thought of as providing the “Keys to the kingdom” for those aliens who receive those benefits.  
Some time ago I used an analogy to illustrate how foolhardy our government has become, where the conferring of these benefits upon aliens is concerned.
When we park our cars in public garages where an attendant parks the cars for the patrons, extremely prominent signs are usually posted all over the garage in the public areas, warning the patrons of the garage to only leave the ignition key when they park their cars.  The concern is that if you leave the key that opens the trunk or glove compartment of your car, a dishonest attendant may well search through your belongings and steal something that catches his eye.  Additionally, if you leave your house key on the key chain with the ignition key, it is entirely possible that a dishonest employee of the garage might make a copy of that house key and then find out where you live by either finding your insurance card in the glove compartment or some other documents that have your home address, or he might find out your home address through your license plate.
There have been burglary teams that have gotten their cohorts jobs in such garages for precisely this purpose.
Last year police in an upscale community north of New York City found that expensive cars had been broken into and the crooks who broke into the cars took only one thing- the remote control device for the garage door opener.  This was an apparent variation on the theme I described above- the goal was to enable burglars to enter someone’s home without having to physically break in.  Such burglars simply sit outside the house they plan to burglarize and wait for their victims to leave for work in the morning.  Then they either open the front door with the key they copied in the public garage, or they use the garage door opener to open the garage to the house they wish to pilfer.  
An Alien Registration Card or, especially, United States citizenship provides similar opportunities for those who have nefarious intentions where the United States is concerned.
There have been a number of cases in the news where aliens who had acquired United States citizenship used their newly acquired citizenship in order to gain a security clearance and a job at a federal agency such as the FBI or CIA or, perhaps, become an officer in the U.S. military in order to engage in espionage.  This has also been done by such malevolent individuals seeking employment at companies that do strategic classified work for our government.
USCIS is also the agency that would be pressed into service to process the unknown millions of applications for aliens whose presence in our country represents a violation of our laws, for Senator Schumer pet program- “Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”  
Meanwhile, according to the information contained in the news report I have attached below, The inept, and corrupt USCIS has been given $2.4 billion to computerize its archaic system and the system still has no integrity even though this program is ten years behind schedule and the amount of money poured down this cesspool is four times what it was supposed to cost!
You would probably have to do some serious searching to find a more thoroughly screwed up situation than this situation represents and still the problems have not been solved!
Once again the voice of reason demanding answers is the voice of Lamar Smith, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee that has oversight authority over the three ring circus comprised of USCIS, ICE and CBP!
The next time you hear a member of the administration or a member of Congress call for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” I suggest you send them this commentary about the inept, incompetent and corrupt agency that would be put in charge of this insane program that I have come to refer to as the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act!”
In fact, in June, 2007 the Washington Times published my Op-ed entitled “Immigration Bill a ‘No Go’ “
Here is a link to that article:

As the article points out, immigration fraud and vulnerabilities don’t just apply to aliens who seek resident alien status or United States citizenship.  The article references a 20 year old Saudi student, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, who was arrested last week as he allegedly completed plans to travel around the United States and plant bombs he would have presumably detonated by remote control using cell phones that were to be modified for this purpose.  
The objective for terrorists who seek to attack our nation is to first be able to enter our country and then embed themselves within our country- to be able to “Hide in plain sight.”
Lawful status in our country provides terrorists and transnational criminals with the camouflage that they need in order to achieve those objectives.
As I noted in my commentary about Aldawsari last week, nearly 9 years ago, in March of 2002, I was called to provide testimony about two other “students” who had gamed the immigration system.  There names were Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi.  If their names are familiar it may be because they were two of the terrorists who participated in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Here is the link to the C-SPAN video of the Congressional hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, at which I testified on March 19, 2002 as you watch this video I want you to consider how much has not changed in the more than 9 years since the attacks of September 11, 2001:

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/165862

Topic for the hearing:
“INS’S MARCH 2002 NOTIFICATION OF APPROVAL OF CHANGE OF STATUS FOR PILOT TRAINING FOR TERRORIST HIJACKERS MOHAMMED ATTA AND MARWAN AL-SHEHHI”
Here is the link to the transcript of the hearing in its entirety

Because or the long standing failures to secure our borders and create an immigration system that has integrity our nation and our citizens remain exposed to serious threats.  
This must stop!  
Nothing less than the survival of our nation and our citizens hang in the balance!
A country without secure borders can no more stand than can a house without walls!

I

our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the “American Dream” the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!

We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm’s way in defense of this nation and our citizens.  
My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.
The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.
If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same.  We need to create a “Bucket Brigade of Truth!”

The practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.

The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!


The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians.  I implore you to resolve this year to get involved!
I believe our nation’s is greatly benefited by the rich diversity of our people which is why I could never imagine living anywhere except New York City, arguably the most diverse city in our nation if not, in fact, the world.  However, my idea of diversity most certainly does not include members of MS-13, the Mexican drug cartels or members of other transnational gangs or members of al-Qaeda!

If this situation concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional “Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation! 

All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!

We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.

This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

-michael cutler- 


Please check out my website:


IG: Program to automate immigration processing is vulnerable to insider threats
By Aliya Sternstein 02/25/2011

A Homeland Security Department inspector general this week released a report that found a struggling $2.4 billion project to computerize immigration paperwork lacks a strategy for protecting the system against insider threats.

The Transformation program, which is supposed to digitize the current paper-based systems for processing visas and other authorization documents, is running about a decade behind schedule and four times its original $536 million budget estimate. The large reengineering effort is aimed at improving customer service, automating workflow, detecting fraud and addressing national security issues.


Frank Deffer, assistant IG for information technology audits, listed the project and its vulnerability to insider threats as among the “most prevalent, high impact areas of concern” in his review of measures U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is taking to guard IT systems and data against dangers that employees and contractors pose. Most USCIS personnel mentioned Transformation during on-site interviews the auditors conducted.

The IG report underscores the importance of preventing tampering so that residency papers are not granted to potential terrorists. Its release coincides with a thwarted bomb plot in Texas allegedly perpetrated by a Saudi Arabian citizen who was legally in the United States on a student visa. 

“Insiders at USCIS have perpetrated fraud in the past,” the audit stated. “USCIS insiders are capable of granting legal residency or citizenship status to someone who poses a national security risk to the United States.”

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on Thursday said the incident in his home state represents a failure of the immigration system to screen applicants. 

Based on a “review of the requirements for fraud detection and national security issues, it appears there are no requirements to address insider threats” to Transformation, Deffer wrote. The report describes the project specifications as detailed and comprehensive but silent on the issue of obstructing malicious insiders. Fraud detection in program documents refers to deception committed by applicants and petitioners — not federal personnel. 

The IG recommended the agency develop system requirements that minimize the risk of insider threats. As of Jan. 20, USCIS officials had not informed the inspector general of steps the agency will take to address the identified security weaknesses. 

In brief remarks submitted to the inspector general, USCIS deputy director said the agency agrees with the report’s findings and recommendations and believes they will be very helpful in its efforts to strengthen controls. IG officials responded, “USCIS did not provide information on how it intends to address our recommendations. Therefore we consider our recommendations unresolved and open pending our review of USCIS’ corrective action plans.”


Agency spokesman Chris Bentley on Friday said USCIS is dedicated to ensuring employees follow pre-established rules and procedures for conduct and the handling of sensitive data. “The USCIS Office of Privacy, Office of Security and Integrity, and Office of Information Technology continue to work to educate our employees about insider threats to ensure our workforce recognizes and reports improper behavior and the mishandling or misuse of data,” he said.

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