National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for reporting corruption and misconduct in agency management, including a disturbing order issued to officers directing them not to patrol a vulnerable stretch of the northern border with Canada. Judicial Watch has obtained government documents and interviewed numerous sources with direct knowledge of the situation, which appears retaliatory.
The ordeal began in mid-April when Judd, who heads the union that represents some 16,000 Border Patrol agents nationwide, denounced a directive to agents to purposely leave a 40-mile section of the Havre Sector in Montana unsecured. The Havre station covers approximately 108 miles of international border with Canada and much of it is sparsely populated.
A conservative news outlet obtained a document from a Havre Sector Border Patrol manager ordering agents to leave 40 miles of Montana border open and unpatrolled. In an article, various Border Patrol agents blamed Obama-era policies and widespread corruption in the Havre Sector’s upper management. One agent said criminal cartels exploit border weaknesses daily so they’re certain to exploit such a large area of open and unpatrolled border.
The federal officers spoke on the condition that their identity be kept anonymous, clearly because they feared retaliation. However, Judd, a veteran Border Patrol agent, went on the record and now DHS is going after him. In the news story Judd revealed that in recent years the Havre sector has seen more complaints than any other sector.
The union chief also criticized DHS Secretary John Kelly for endorsing Obama-era open border policies and condoning his predecessors’ (Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson) failures. Judd also said this in the article: “President Trump is the president of the common citizen and the choice of the rank-and-file Border Patrol Agents; unfortunately there are those highly paid career managers who want to believe they’re above everyone else — up to and including the President of the United States.”
Secretary Kelly’s DHS management team responded by launching an investigation into Judd, accusing him of “unauthorized disclosure of law enforcement information” in the news story referenced above. In a letter to the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Border Patrol Council’s legal division writes that nothing in the article qualified as law enforcement sensitive information, though such disclosures are protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) as well as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA).
The article did not specify the exact location of the 40 miles, whether the 40 miles was contiguous or even the Border Patrol station within the Havre Sector where the order was given, the letter states. “Based upon the law, DHS/OIG cannot legally sustain any allegation that Mr. Judd improperly disclosed law enforcement information,” the letter says. “Also, we understand that DHS/OIG is only the investigatory body responsible for gathering the facts and that any threatened or actual personnel action would be taken by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. As a result, we are forwarding this memorandum to CBP as well as the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) to ensure that no threatened or actual personnel action be taken against Mr. Judd.”
Originally, the agency watchdog launched a probe into allegations of corruption divulged by Judd in an electronic mail to Border Patrol Chief Ronald Vitiello and Associate Chief Rodolfo Karisch. In the email, titled “Allegation of Corruption,” Judd cited evidence he believed showed that an operations change at the Havre Sector was “due to either corruption, retaliation, or for political purposes.” Judd expressed concern for the safety of agents as well as the public and the DHS OIG launched a criminal investigation into Havre Sector management officials.
At some point in the corruption probe of Havre Sector management, the watchdog initiated an administrative investigation into Judd for reasons that aren’t clear. Judicial Watch reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the 60,000-employee agency that encompasses the Border Patrol, but calls went unanswered. The administration’s official reason for going after Judd is the “unauthorized disclosure of law enforcement information.” In a document obtained by Judicial Watch, the DHS OIG warns Judd that he may be subject to disciplinary action that includes termination.