Watchdog finds agencies run unauthorized, expensive security forces

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 9: In this handout provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,  Foreign nationals were arrested this week during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens February 9, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Bryan Cox/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Getty Images)

Story highlights

  • CBP told investigators the "personnel costs" for its team totals $700,000 a year
  • Protecting government officials costs have ballooned under Trump

(CNN)The Homeland Security inspector general on Thursday dinged Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection for operating unauthorized, expensive protection details for its chiefs.

The details, a practice since 2014, appear to be "more related to executive convenience and status than protection," the inspector general report reads.
The security arrangement isn't cheap, either. CBP told investigators the "personnel costs" alone for its team totals $700,000 per year. When other costs -- like travel, vehicles and "operational expenses" -- are factored in, the inspector general concluded the "true annual cost of each detail could exceed $1 million."
    "The current situation is based on questionable legal authority and invites abuse," the report read.
    The report suggests the agencies may be allowed to temporarily protect top officials who face an "immediate, direct threat." But it says no authorization exists for a permanent security detail that operates "regardless of whether specific, credible threats exist."
    The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP and ICE, said the officials face a number of security threats, and that it "believes that sufficient legal authority exists for (a) security detail."
    As examples of the dangers faced by top officials, DHS identified two specific death threats made in 2015 and 2016, as well as more general threats, like occasional protests near department offices. DHS also identified concerns about disgruntled law enforcement officers in its ranks who have been disciplined and "are discontented with the real or perceived loss of their livelihood, opportunity for advancement, and reputation."
    The security details existed before President Donald Trump named Kevin McAleenan as acting commissioner of CBP or Thomas Homan as acting director of ICE.
    But the report raises questions about the costs of protecting government officials at the same time as those figures have ballooned under the Trump administration.
    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has unprecedented around-the-clock protection from environmental agents at his agency. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is guarded by US marshals, an unusual level of protection for her position. And the Secret Service said last month the costs of protecting Trump and his large family, with frequent travel, has stressed the agency. More than 1,000 agents already hit yearly salary caps -- with several months of work ahead of them -- due to the large amount of required overtime.