The arrest of 18 airport employees by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a few weeks ago is another indication that the border is not yet secure.

The investigation at JFK International Airport conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) included the arrest of 7 Delta (including a Delta cargo supervisor) and one American Airlines employees.

ICE and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) stated that 100 lbs of cocaine, 55 lbs of heroin and 3 kilos of ecstasy were seized during this investigation which began in 2005 with the discovery of a left-over bag containing narcotics. The narcotics were smuggled in luggage, accessed by the conspirators at JFK and removed prior to customs examination.

Conspiracies among employees working at and within the “secure border” area at our air and marine facilities continue to be a major national security concern. These employees, operating independent of constant government scrutiny and supervision, exploit their access to these areas to violate the security so important to protecting the United States. They literally utilize their knowledge of the airport or seaport, government inspection and examination methods and patterns of activity, and law enforcement techniques and methods of operation to circumvent the federal inspection system.

Post 9/11 security enhancements instituted by DHS and many of the Port Authorities operating U.S. air and marine facilities have increased background checks and investigations of individuals working in this environment. However, many, if not all of the employees involved in the conspiracy at JFK International Airport passed this increased scrutiny.

My experience tells me that ICE at JFK International Airport is already working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on another criminal organization at that facility involved in a narcotics internal conspiracy. The “ICE Internal Conspiracy Group” at JFK was never without work as they moved from one organization to another to neutralize their criminal activities. Often while investigating one criminal organization, they uncovered another one conducting similar activities.

Narcotics, in and of itself, is a significant threat to the United States, not only because of the damage it causes within our society but also because it is a source of funds to finance other criminal and terrorist activity. But the thought that these organizations could utilize this access and knowledge to enter a weapon — be it biological, chemical or radiological — is and continues to be a major concern of federal law enforcement.