Officials within the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement or “ICE,” as it is commonly known, are pushing to change the division’s name to Investigations and Criminal Enforcement, MSNBC.com has learned.
The name change is intended to be more reflective of the division’s mission and make-up as the agency has matured in its eight months as part of the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE is the second-largest federal investigative agency, combining some 5,500 special agents from the former U.S. Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service. In November ICE absorbed the Air Marshal Service, with its thousands of air marshals (the exact number is classified). The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its 11,000 agents, is the biggest investigative agency.
Most of the agents now associated with ICE have some kind of formal investigative training, including those in a robust financial investigative arm aimed at stopping money laundering and thwarting terrorist financing.
“ICE needed to be formatted to create a structure to support a new, enhanced and integrated investigative agency,” said ICE Director Michael Garcia in a speech earlier this year. That transformation, Garcia said, was accomplished in June.
Integrating the investigative powers and intelligence-gathering capabilities of all the various agencies now functioning under ICE has been a priority for Garcia. Bringing in the Air Marshal Service only served to bolster that aim, ICE officials said.
Some 5,500 ICE agents are slated to be cross-trained after the first of the year for emergency air marshal duty. These cross-trained agents can then be “surged” on board airlines in times of high terrorism alerts, said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in announcing the air marshal move to ICE from the Transportation Security Administration.
And now the air marshals themselves have seen their own mission start to broaden beyond riding shotgun on airlines.
Even before moving to ICE, air marshals were pulling duty as members of various joint terrorism task forces located around the country. And some air marshals — the majority of which have professional investigative training — are being told they will begin to handle investigations “cradle to grave,” according to air marshals who have spoken to MSNBC.com. However, these sources declined to detail the nature of such investigations.
ICE sources familiar with the name change proposal wouldn’t speculate on when the decision would be formally announced or whether it would even be accepted. “It’s still just a proposal and it’s out of our hands,” one ICE source said.