Another adjudication system identified during the same review that uncovered the auto-adjudication system is even more troubling. Staff at the National Benefits Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, acknowledged that there is a program embedded in CLAIMS3, the backbone of the ICE/USCIS IT system, without the knowledge or approval of the USCIS or DHS Chief Information Officers. This rogue system, as it was referred to by IT Security personnel, allows a remote user to bypass the normal data-entry process and manually insert any number of immigration files (what appear to be fully adjudicated applications for EADs and replacement green cards) into the computer system so that all standard application screening processes, including the “Lock Box function,” which accounts for the receipt of immigration processing fees, and ALL background checks, including the initial, automated IBIS check, are circumvented.
IT security staff intended to conduct a thorough investigation into this remote system, but after they submitted their initial report, they were prohibited from accessing CLAIMS3 to proceed with the investigation and were told to rewrite the report.6 There are, apparently, two subsequent versions of this report, both of which have been sanitized to varying degrees. I have been told by a whistleblower that he was specifically told not to mention the existence of this remote adjudication system to OSI criminal investigators. Further, the Director of Adjudications at the National Benefits Center claimed to have no knowledge of any process allowing manual insertion of files into the system. Only the IT staff at the Center admitted knowledge of its existence.
When I first mentioned the existence of this system during an April 2006 hearing before the Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation of the House International Relations Committee, USCIS claimed that only EAD applications from Mariel Cubans, documents submitted in response to Requests for Evidence, and applications that have been terminated by other Service Centers can be manually entered into CLAIMS3 at the National Benefits Center. However, this claim is not supported by the fact that the system is operated remotely from USCIS Headquarters in Washington, DC. Nor is it supported by the fact that the system is operated by a well-connected contract employee, or someone using his screen name, at Headquarters, and utilizes a post office box in Washington that comes back to the following address:
Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service, CDS/MU, PO Box 75840, Washington, DC 20013.
Finally, the attached screen scrape from the remote adjudication system shows that applications for both EADs (I-785s) and replacement green cards (I-90s) are being processed for aliens from a variety of countries other than Cuba, including China, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, and South Africa.7 According to IT security experts, someone in Washington, DC, not in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, is creating records indicating that benefits have been approved, even though no processing fee has been received by USCIS.
One would assume that if it were a legitimate system, the investigating IT staff would have been informed of its purpose and assured that it was being audited, rather than being forbidden from investigating further and forced to rewrite a report to remove potentially embarrassing information. Additionally, if it were a legitimate system, USCIS would be required to make it comply with the Federal Information Security and Management Act (FISMA), as is required for all DHS IT systems. Of course, certain agencies are allowed to manipulate immigration data in order to mount law enforcement sensitive operations. The large volume of records being created, among other things, argues against this explanation. If it is a law enforcement system, however, a poorly designed audit trail lifted the veil.
IBIS Checks on Aliens
The Enforcement Communications System (TECS), which is managed by Customs and Border Protection, is essentially a gateway to the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), which consolidates the records of some two dozen Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies—including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the intelligence community—and provides access to state criminal and motor vehicle records. Through TECS, authorized adjudicators can run a name through IBIS to find outstanding warrants, terrorist connections, immigration violations, and other information necessary for deciding whether an alien should be permitted to remain in the United States.
6 Attachment 4: National Benefits Center Adjudication Process Review, Office of the Chief Information Officer, March 23, 2006.
7 Attachment 5: Screen scrape of applications processed remotely in one 30-day period, along with an edited version that shows more clearly the countries of origin of beneficiaries of the remote processing system.
END of Excerpt
Originally on the Congressional website, Attachment 5 was quickly taken down after questions began to be asked about the rogue IT program. The names of the recipients have been blacked out.
At the time, when I asked Public Affairs officers both at the CIA and the FBI whether they had any objection as to whether I, or others, wrote about this program since I had the names and several more pages of printouts the PA officials at both agencies offered no objections. In fact, the Agency spokesperson explicitly said they had no objections and while the Bureau was less explicit, the Bureau’s press contacts with whom I spoke appeared equally indifferent as to whether there might be media coverage of this specific rogue IT program which allowed foreign nationals to live and work in the US.
Consequently, when I learned that the acting Director of USCIS told a prominent immigration reporter that the reporter’s life could be in danger if the reporter approached the individuals listed in the Rogue IT program, I was a little taken aback.
How could a program that appeared to be letting in hundreds if not a few thousand people a year into the country, not be a concern to the FBI and CIA, if those people were a lethal threat to anyone who might start asking them questions about their background? Were such individuals safe to release, work release into America’s communities?