Customs Programs' "Trust Betrayed" by Participants; Security Breaches Possible

Go figure.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection grants some foreign companies the right to less frequent random inspections at the border, and some of those companies seem to be abusing the privilege in a big way.

Yesterday, a vehicle tied to one of the companies enrolled in a CBP program known by the clumsy acronym C-TPAT was caught at the Nogales port of entry with nearly 3,000 of marijuana.

A week ago, border inspectors found another 3,000 pounds of pot hidden among some squash. The vehicle belonged to a company participating in FAST, the Free and Secure Trade program.

C-TPAT stands for Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, and the companies involved are supposedly "low risk threat for smuggling" of illegal items and terrorist weapons, according to a 

In her news release, Arrellano writes that "trust was betrayed" when the big rig tried to pass into the United States with its load. Nobody's being accused of anything yet. The company's C-TPAT privileges have only been suspended until an investigation is completed.

Arrellano says she's not sure how many times C-TPAT or FAST vehicles get caught with illegal loads.

But with the lax inspections involved in those programs, it's a safe bet that whatever the amount of seized contraband, it's nothing compared to the actual amount of stuff the participants are smuggling.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.