In the midst of an ongoing turf battle over how big a role the National Security Agency should play in securing the nation’s critical infrastructure, a Defense Department official asserted on Wednesday that the military’s controversial intelligence agency should take a backseat to the Department of Homeland Security in this regard.
Fast forward to today, and we're talking about a fight between two parts of the DHS. This is actually part of a larger battle - the two people who raised the topic were Republicans, and one of them noted that this problem occurred while Democrat Barack Obama was in charge - but the referenced fight was an incident that occurred after last year's terrorist attack in San Bernardino, when Enrique Marquez, an admitted friend of Syed Farook, happened to be at a DHS facility for an immigration hearing.
"The report from the Office of Inspector General confirms whistleblower complaints I received about a dangerous lack of coordination between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,” said Sen. [Ron] Johnson. “The refusal to allow armed ICE agents into a USCIS facility to detain a suspected terrorist could have had tragic consequences. Congress created the DHS to unify and improve coordination among agencies in defending our homeland. What happened in the San Bernardino USCIS field office on December 3 shows that work remains. I hope Secretary Johnson and DHS leadership take this independent watchdog report to heart."
So why did the USCIS burn ICE when they came calling? The press release goes into the thought process that occurs when bureaucrats collide.
The DHS OIG report found that USCIS “improperly delayed HSI agents from conducting a lawful and routine law enforcement action.” The HSI agents waited 20 to 30 minutes in accessing the USCIS building because the USCIS field office director incorrectly asserted that she had authority to determine who could and could not enter the building. The report states that the HSI agents should have been allowed to enter the building immediately after they had identified themselves and explained their purpose. The USCIS field office director incorrectly asserted that USCIS policy prohibited making an arrest or detention at a USCIS facility.
So what happened in this case? Whether you're a USCIS field office director, a political campaign volunteer, or a strategic marketing manager, your primary loyalty is not to humanity, or to your (country's or company's) president. Your loyalty is to the person right above you. People leave jobs because of bad bosses, so it stands to reason that people stay in jobs because of good bosses.
So in this particular case, the USCIS field office directory expressed her loyalty to someone within USCIS, not to the overall goals of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Thus, the vision that a unified Department of Homeland Security would result in a unified purpose in all of its components has come to naught.
But this isn't just isolated to a single USCIS official. In fact, I am guilty of the same issue. When I worked as an AFIS product manager for Motorola, I did not spend every waking hour of every day wondering about how police radios and RAZR phones should penetrate the market. And if you ask me today whether I constantly worry about aircraft engine sales, my response is - no comment. Although to be fair to myself, the folks at Safran Helicopter Engines (formerly Turbomeca) don't spend their days and nights worrying about ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011 either.
Back to the USCIS-ICE brouhaha - in the end, the half-hour standoff between the two agencies didn't matter. Enrique Marquez, rather than going on a shooting spree or anything like that, instead went to the UCLA Harbor Medical Center psychiatric ward and was subsequently arrested.
No word on whether the psychiatric ward had to battle any other units within UCLA regarding Marquez.