BY Richard Moorhead, The Western JournalJanuary 11, 2023
1 year ago

Damning Report: Homeland Security? Dept. Can't Even Secure Its Own Buildings

The Department of Homeland Security is leaving many of its facilities and networks vulnerable to outside threats.

In a December report, the department's Office of the Inspector General raised the alarm about personal identity verification cards that remain in the hands of former DHS employees.

Tens of thousands of PIV cards have gone without deactivation after their holders left DHS, according to The Intercept. The cards "allow staff to enter sensitive, secure facilities and access internal data networks," the publication reported.

This problem isn't new. Internal audits of the department have raised the alarm about access cards in the hands of former employees four different times since 2007, according to The Intercept.

Of the 137,375 cardholders who left DHS in between 2018 and 2021, the Inspector General concluded that only 49 percent of cards were deactivated in accordance with department protocol.

Some PIV cards were terminated after the 18-hour window that DHS regulations specify for cancellation.

As many as 36,774 cards may not have been deactivated at all, according to the report.

DHS officials acknowledged the problem, according to the report, but put the number of cards that had not been deactivated lower -- at 22,878.

Regardless of the number, the report puts the gravity of the problem clearly.

"The Department considers PIV cards, which can remain active for up to 6 years, sensitive and high-value items with 'grave potential for misuse if lost, stolen, or compromised,'" the report states.

Department administrators deliberately declined to date the termination of cards in a federal program, according to the OIG.

“Some DHS officials also told us they intentionally did not enter a revocation date after revoking PIV cards because doing so caused reports to become too large, resulting in [Identity Management System] slowing down."

The same report also indicated that DHS was failing to withdraw the security clearances of former employees and contractors who left the department.

Failure to maintain security of DHS networks and facilities could potentially jeopardize national security.

Rogue actors with access to federal buildings and networks could obtain sensitive intelligence.

"Without effective PIV card and security clearance management and monitoring, DHS cannot ensure only authorized individuals have access to its controlled systems and facilities," the report states. "As a result, there is a risk that individuals who no longer require access to systems and facilities could circumvent controls and enter DHS buildings and controlled areas."

The problems span all DHS agencies, including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to the OIG report.

The cards aren't the first thing that DHS has lost track of, under its embattled Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- an agency of DHS -- lost track of 150,000 illegal aliens in the summer of 2021 alone, according to Fox News.

Some DHS agencies have struggled with hiring and retaining personnel, especially since President Joe Biden assumed office.

Lagging morale has driven experienced Border Patrol agents to depart federal service, and DHS isn't able to hire new agents quickly enough to replace them.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Richard Moorhead, The Western Journal

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