Cops Without Borders: L.A. Ports to Get Foreign Help
It sounds like a classic Good News/Bad News situation. The Associated Press reports that for the first time U.S. customs agents will be working on-site at L.A.'s two ports with a member of Mexican law enforcement. The arrangement, which also extends to seaports in Miami and the New York-New Jersey area, comes a critical time when smuggling of contraband, guns and drugs from is not only at an all-time high, but the resulting drug turf wars are transforming much of Mexico into a battlefield fought over by rival cartels. However, as the AP piece notes of this exchange program:
"While working with foreign officers at U.S. seaports may yield valuable information, criminal justice experts say, the practice also raises a question about whether sharing intelligence with an officer from another country -- particularly one notorious for corruption like Mexico -- could compromise sensitive investigations."
One criminal expert quoted in the AP story notes that information leaks were often a problem with past bilateral arrangements between the U.S. and Mexico and Russia.
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has also been trying to coax intelligence officers from Colombia and Argentina into similar arrangements. Perhaps, though, Tim Durst, who is the chief of ICE's anti-smuggling operations, may have unintentionally articulated the potential danger when he said of sharing information with Mexican intelligence officers, "It is one of the few ways to go back to the source of smuggling activity."
The AP story notes that while the foreign law enforcement officers will be be able to track and investigate drug shipments and other contraband entering the United States, they are not authorized to make arrests on American soil.