WASHINGTON – A sting on U.S. border patrols reveals that guards don't even bother to check whether travelers are handing over phony papers to get into the country.
The Government Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, sent investigators out to border stops where Immigration and Naturalizations Service and U.S. Customs Service agents are in charge of reviewing papers presented by those trying to enter the country.
The investigators said they handed over several types of fake ID's with fictitious names. The agents never questioned whether the documents were real.
"Our agents encountered no difficulty entering the country using them," said GAO official Robert Cramer, whose agency was asked to do the sting by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and ranking member Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Cramer, managing director of the GAO's Office of Special Investigations, said the fake driver's licenses and birth certificates were made using off-the-shelf computer graphic software that can be picked up anywhere. They were also able to obtain credit cards using fake names.
A government source said the lax security was at Miami International Airport, which Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is touring Thursday with Border and Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchison. Investigators were also able to cross unimpeded from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Isidro in San Diego; and from Peace Arch Park in Blaine, Wash., south of Vancouver, British Columbia; and Port Angeles, Wash., where ferry boats dock from Port Victoria, British Columbia. The flight to Miami was from Jamaica, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The ferry boat crossing at Port Angeles, Wash., is where Ahmed Ressam, convicted of plotting a terrorist attack on Los Angeles Airport during millennium celebrations, was arrested in 1999 while trying to enter from Canada in a car full of explosives.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.