No DEA agents were fired for Colom­bian sex par­ties

Law­maker calls for chief to re­sign

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY MAGGIE YBARRA

An in­ter­nal Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­port showed the agency gave its agents a mere slap on the wrist for pur­chas­ing the ser­vices of Colom­bian pros­ti­tutes, some­times with tax­payer money and some­times as they let lo­cal po­lice watch their weapons and per­sonal prop­erty.

The re­port and a Tues­day hear­ing on it prompted a key con­gress­man to say that the DEA chief needs to re­sign.

A sum­mary of the in­ter­nal re­port shows the DEA doled out pun­ish­ments to 10 of its agents, which ranged from a let­ter of cau­tion to a two-week sus­pen­sion. None of the agents who par­tic­i­pated in the par­ties was fired.

“They ap­pear to have frat­er­nized with car­tel mem­bers, ac­cepted lav­ish gifts and paid for pros­ti­tutes with no con­cern for the neg­a­tive reper­cus­sions or se­cu­rity vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties they cre­ated,” an an­gry Rep. Eli­jah E. Cum­mings, Mary­land Demo­crat, said at a Tues­day hear­ing on the mat­ter.

In one in­stance, money to pay pros­ti­tutes at a farewell party for a high-rank­ing DEA of­fi­cial was in­cluded in an “op­er­a­tional bud­get” that used gov­ern­ment funds for the party, the re­port said.

DEA agents also rented un­der­cover apart­ments in Colom­bia and used them to host pros­ti­tutes, the DEA said in its in­ter­nal re­port.

The House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee staff made the in­ter­nal re­port avail­able at Tues­day’s hear­ing, which gave law­mak­ers a chance to look into the Jus­tice Depart­ment in­spec­tor gen­eral’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion ac­cus­ing DEA agents of at­tend­ing pros­ti­tute or­gies funded by lo­cal drug car­tels in a for­eign coun­try from 2009 to 2012.

The DEA’s in­ter­nal re­port ex­pands upon that re­view, de­tail­ing 14 years of mis­con­duct ac­cu­sa­tions, dat­ing back to 2001. Ten DEA agents were ac­cused of wrong­do­ing; seven were is­sued sus­pen­sions rang­ing from one to 10 days. The in­ter­nal re­port de­picts mar­ried agents, who did “the most run­ning around” with women, as “out of con­trol.”

Law­mak­ers ex­pressed con­cern dur­ing the hear­ing that some of the gov­ern­ment­funded sex soirees may have in­cluded teenagers.

In re­sponse to pointed ques­tions about whether un­der­age women were among the pros­ti­tutes, DEA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michele Leon­hart replied: “I don’t know that.”

The ex­plo­sive in­ter­nal re­port shows that pun­ish­ments rec­om­mended for the DEA agents also were re­duced with­out ex­pla­na­tion in many cases. It is also un­known whether any of the DEA su­per­vi­sors who may have known about the ac­cu­sa­tions but failed to re­port them were pun­ished.

The light pun­ish­ments an­gered law­mak­ers from both par­ties.

Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, Utah Repub­li­can and com­mit­tee chair­man, ex­pressed dis­may and shock that agents were al­lowed to re­turn to work quickly “with their se­cret clear­ances fully in­tact.”

“Th­ese agents com­pro­mised our na­tional se­cu­rity and then es­sen­tially got a va­ca­tion,” he said. “There is no ac­count­abil­ity, and that is un­ac­cept­able.”

In an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press af­ter the hear­ing, Mr. Chaf­fetz said Ms. Leon­hart, who has been the DEA’s top of­fi­cial since 2007 and was deputy for three years be­fore that, has let prob­lems fes­ter for too long. “It’s time for her to go,” he said.

Dur­ing the hear­ing though, Ms. Leon­hart re­sponded that civil ser­vice pro­tec­tions make it dif­fi­cult to fire DEA agents.

As ad­min­is­tra­tor, she is pow­er­less to step in dur­ing dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings and in some cases can­not even re­voke an agent’s se­cu­rity clear­ance, she said.

Mr. Cum­mings, the rank­ing mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, said the re­port de­picted “truly breath­tak­ing reck­less­ness” and showed “DEA agents as com­pletely out of con­trol.”

In one case, an agent ac­cepted an au­then­tic Rolex watch from some­one re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing pros­ti­tutes to par­ties in Bogota, Colom­bia, ac­cord­ing to a heav­ily redacted doc­u­ment that com­mit­tee staff handed out to re­porters.

Law­mak­ers from both par­ties said they were dumb­founded that At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. found it nec­es­sary to send a memo last week re­mind­ing depart­ment em­ploy­ees not to pur­chase the ser­vices of pros­ti­tutes.

“Hello? Am I miss­ing some­thing?” Mr. Cum­mings said. “I think we are at an all­time low here.”

Rep. Bob Good­latte, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can and House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee chair­man, and Rep. F. James Sensen­bren­ner Jr., Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can and chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee on crime, ter­ror­ism, home­land se­cu­rity and in­ves­ti­ga­tions, said in a joint state­ment that law­mak­ers “will not tol­er­ate fur­ther episodes of ‘agents gone wild.’”

“In the fu­ture, Jus­tice Depart­ment em­ploy­ees who pur­chase sex must be fired,” the two men wrote. They said they hope to speak soon with agency rep­re­sen­ta­tives who can ex­plain why DEA em­ploy­ees have not been suf­fi­ciently held accountable for their ac­tions.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple de­serve an­swers from their gov­ern­ment about this atro­cious be­hav­ior and de­mand change to en­sure such lapses in judge­ment don’t hap­pen again,” the law­mak­ers said.

This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An in­ter­nal Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­port showed the agency gave its agents a slap on the wrist for pur­chas­ing the ser­vices of Colom­bian pros­ti­tutes. In re­sponse to pointed ques­tions about whether un­der­age women were among the pros­ti­tutes, DEA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Michele Leon­hart replied: “I don’t know that.” Rep. Ja­son Chaf­fetz, Utah Repub­li­can has called on Ms. Leon­hart to re­sign.

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