Congressional Democrats have asked for a review of secretive U.S. Border Patrol teams with multiple roles, including protecting agents against potential civil liability. Ten House and Senate committee and subcommittee chairs in the House and Senate requested that the Government Accountability Office look into the teams, after questions to the Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, about the units’ mission and the scope of their authority went largely unanswered. The House Committees on Homeland Security and Oversight and Reform announced their own joint investigation into the "critical incident teams" as well, reports the New York Times.
The inquiries come as Chris Magnus, new commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, faces a a long to-do list overseeing the Border Patrol and its entrenched, insular culture. Magnus, who came to the job after serving as Tucson, Az., police chief, has promised to bring transparency to the agency. Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, leaders of the Oversight and Reform and Homeland Security Committees, said, “Despite the apparent lack of authority to investigate agent misconduct, Border Patrol appears to have created special teams of agents to investigate and collect evidence following incidents that may create criminal or civil liability, including allegations of excessive use of force,” they wrote. The Times reported this month on the rise in deaths from high-speed vehicle chases by the Border Patrol, citing police reports that noted the presence of critical incident teams at some scenes. Customs and Border Protection has never mentioned the teams in news releases about high-speed chases or use-of-force incidents.