CBP Refuses to Say Whether Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost Is Among 70 Current, Former Workers Under Investigation

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has said that 70 current and former employees are under investigation for "alleged inappropriate social media activity" within three private social media groups in which users made jokes about dead migrants and lewd comments about Congressmembers.

What the agency wouldn't say, however, was whether the Border Patrol's own chief Carla Provost might be among the 70 people being investigated.

Since investigative news organization ProPublica first reported on the existence of a secret Facebook group dubbed "I'm 10-15," the 10-15 likely a reference to the agency's code for "aliens in custody," comprised of current and former members Border Patrol workers, it has come to light that Provost may have been among the group's members.

While Provost had condemned the group, calling the posts highlighted by ProPublica "completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see—and expect—from our agents day in and day out," a report from The Intercept has since connected her Facebook page to posts made within the secret group.

But while Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Missouri, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has sent a letter to the DHS Inspector General's office specifically requesting that investigators look into whether Provost and Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan knew about the "I'm 10-15" group, CBP has kept silent on whether either immigration official is included in its internal investigation.

In a statement to Newsweek, CBP spokesperson Kelly Cahalan said the agency could only confirm that there are currently 70 individuals under investigation for "alleged inappropriate social media activity within three private social media groups."

"Currently all of the cases are administrative and not criminal," Cahalan said.

The CBP spokesperson noted that so far two cases have already concluded and been "referred to management for adjudication."

On whether Provost, the first woman to lead the U.S. Border Patrol, is among those being investigated, Cahalan said: "CBP cannot discuss the status of individual investigations at this time."

Asked whether all 70 workers included in the investigation have been put on administrative leave, Cahalan said the agency could not provide any more information.

After the existence of the "I'm 10-15" Facebook group came to light, with the group reported to have as many as 9,500 participants, the existence of a second group, known as "The Real CBP Nation" also emerged. It is unclear what the third social media group involved in CBP's investigation is.

In a call with reports on Monday, Assistant Commissioner for CBP's Office for Professional Responsibility, Matt Klein, said that he anticipated that the numbers of those being investigated "will continue to grow as we receive additional information and perform further research and conduct interviews," according to CNN.

Klein also refused to comment on whether Provost was among the 70 currently being investigated, asserting that he could not comment on individual cases.

"OPR is conducting a very comprehensive review and investigation of every individual who either posted or commented or may have had knowledge of any of those posts," he said.

It is still unclear what action might be taken against those found to have engaged in inappropriate social media behavior. It is also unclear how many CBP workers have been placed on administrative duty after the social media groups came to light.

Carla Provost
Carla Provost, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, is sworn in before testifying before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Capitol Hill on May 8 in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency will not say whether Provost is among 70 workers being investigated over alleged inappropriate social media activity. Mark Wilson/Getty