WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Thursday pressed the Department of Homeland Security for previously requested information about a possible breach in border security that allowed a Mexican National with a multi-drug resistant form of tuberculosis to cross the southern border into the United States repeatedly – even after border security officers had been notified to deny him entry and had placed him on a watch list.
As part of an ongoing investigation into the border security lapse, Senators Lieberman and Collins asked DHS for, among other things, its after action report of the incident and certain computer records. The Senators previously made these requests in an October 2007 letter, but DHS has yet to provide them.
Following is a copy of the letter:
The Honorable Michael Chertoff
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Chertoff:
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) is conducting an investigation into a possible breach in border security that allowed Amado Isidro Armendariz Amaya, a Mexican national with Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB), to repeatedly enter the U.S. and board U.S. flights undetected during April and May of 2007 despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials that measures should be taken to prevent the individual from entering the U.S. and engaging in air travel. We are concerned that a complete and thorough presentation of the facts surrounding this case has not been provided to HSGAC.
On October 30, 2007, we sent you a letter requesting specific information regarding the case of Mr. Armendariz Amaya and the circumstances that allowed his continued entry into the country. In our letter, we requested that you provide the Committee with a copy of any after-action report conducted on this matter by the Department. We did not receive a copy of an after-action report as part of your reply to our letter. We urge you to provide us a copy of any such report or indicate that none was prepared.
We also requested a series of computer records that would document the searches performed by CBP officials using the name and birth date provided by the CDC on multiple occasions in attempts to identify Mr. Armendariz Amaya in the Traveler Enforcement and Compliance System (TECS) computer database. We are disappointed that your response to our letter did not include this information, and request that you provide this information immediately.
To understand how CBP was unable to initially identify Mr. Armendariz Amaya in the TECS database, we ask that you expeditiously provide Committee staff with a demonstration of how CBP officials conducted their search for Mr. Armendariz Amaya in TECS between April 16 and April 20, 2007 when CBP issued two separate “Be on the Look Out” (BOLO) notices for him and again on May 31, 2007 when CBP received a copy of Mr. Armendariz Amaya’s Border Crossing Card.
In addition, to gain greater clarification into this case, we would like you to respond to the following questions:
1. On April 16, 2007, after a CDC official contacted CBP, was an incident report developed by the El Paso Field Office and was notification sent to CBP Headquarters? If so, please provide a copy of the incident report developed for this case. If none was developed, please explain why?
2. Was the effort to determine the identity of Mr. Armendariz Amaya between April 16, 2007 and May 31, 2007 led at the Headquarters or local level? Please identify which operational or Headquarters unit handled this effort.
3. In your response to our original letter, you indicated that the TECS database is capable of finding matches based on incomplete personal information and information presented in an incorrect order. Were efforts made on April 16, 2007 to run TECS computer searches with the name and date of birth information in various orders to determine a positive match? If not, why not? Please describe the searches made and who conducted those searches.
4. On April 19, 2007, CDC learned that it had provided the subjects date of birth to CBP in the format utilized in Mexico (day, month, year) and contacted CBP to clarify the information. CBP issued a second “Be on the Look Out” (BOLO) notice on April 20, 2007 with the date of birth in the correct U.S. format, but then it reversed Mr. Armendariz Amaya’s originally reported name to read “Amaya Armendariz.” Why were the last names changed in the BOLO?
5. Upon receiving this correctly formatted date of birth on April 19, 2007, were further searches run in the TECS database to identify the individual? If not, why not? If searches were run, please describe how the searches were conducted and who conducted those searches.
6. A summary of a conference call that took place on May 22, 2007 regarding the Armendariz Amaya case between the CDC, CBP and the OHA, provided to the Committee by the CDC, states that as a follow up to the call DHS would recommend that Mr. Armendariz Amaya’s Laser Visa be revoked. Did anyone from CBP or OHA make that recommendation following the May 22, 2007 call? If so, who was responsible for making that recommendation? How soon after the call was the recommendation made? If the recommendation was not immediately made, please explain why. Who was the recommendation made to? What was the result of that recommendation?
7. CDC has reported that on April 16, 2007, a CDC official advised a CBP official that Mr. Armendariz Amaya frequently traveled by air within the United States and that he presented a public health threat and should be prevented from engaging in air travel. A summary of the conference call that took place on May 22, 2007 states that CDC officials reiterated concerns about the Mexican nationals frequent air travel. During this call, did CBP or OHA commit to exploring how to place Mr. Armendariz Amaya on a national “no board” list to ensure that he could not board any flight within the U.S.? If so, who from CBP and OHA agreed to carry out this initiative? Was this initiative carried out? If so, how soon after May 22, 2007 was it carried out? If it was not explored immediately, please explain why. What were the results of the DHS exploration?
8. Did Mr. Armendariz Amaya fill out an Arrival Departure Record (Form I-94) and present it to a CBP officer when arriving at a U.S. port-of-entry between April 16, 2007 and June 7, 2007? If so, when and where? If he was admitted to the U.S. using an I-94 Form, for how long was his authorized period of stay granted? If he was admitted to the U.S. using an I-94 Form, was the information collected on the I-94 Form used to determine if there was a look-out posted for him on the TECS border screening system? If so, what were the results of that search for him on TECS? Please provide the TECS records for such a search.
We ask that you provide responses to these questions and provide the TECS demonstration by January 30, 2008. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter. If you have questions about this request, please contact Patricia Rojas on the majority committee staff at (202) 224-2627 or Rob Strayer on the minority committee staff at (202) 224-4751.