By John Bresnahan and Lauren French, Politico.com
Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department on Thursday.
In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report states. Ten DEA agents later admitted attending the parties, and some of the agents received suspensions of two to 10 days.
The stunning allegations are part of an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into claims of sexual harassment and misconduct within DEA; FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service. The IG’s office found that DEA did not fully cooperate with its probe.
The congressional committee charged with federal oversight is already promising hearings and an investigation into the allegations.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told POLITICO on Thursday he wanted the agencies involved to swiftly fire those involved and that his panel would immediately start digging into the allegations.
“You can’t ignore this. This is terribly embarrassing and fundamentally not right,” the Utah Republican said. “We need to understand what’s happening with the culture … anytime you bring a foreign national into your room, you’re asking for trouble.”
The congressional committee was first briefed on the IG’s report Wednesday. The House is about to depart on a two-week recess but Chaffetz said there would be major action coming from the Oversight panel when the House returns in April.
“We have to understand issue by issue what is happening. We need to understand how these people are being held accountable. There should be no question about the severity of the punishment,” Chaffetz said. “I don’t care how senior the person is, they are going to have to let these people go.”
The Oversight panel is also investigating allegations into the Secret Service that agents there hired prostitutes in Colombia while advancing a trip for President Barack Obama.
The Oversight committee will hold a hearing on April 14 at 10 a.m., and the DEA and DOJ inspector generals are invited testify.
Moreover,the report states that DEA, ATF and the Marshals Service repeatedly failed to report all risky or improper sexual behavior to security personnel at those agencies.
The report covers the period from 2009 to 2012, although some of the incidents occurred long before that.
The DEA “sex parties” in Colombia, though, are by far the most damaging allegations.
“The foreign officer allegedly arranged ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes funded by the local drug cartels for these DEA agents at their government-leased quarters, over a period of several years,” the IG report says.
The parties reportedly took place from 2005 to 2008, but the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility became aware of them only in 2010, after it received an anonymous complaint. DEA supervisors, however, had been aware of the allegations for several years because of complaints from management of the building in which the DEA office in Bogotá was located.
“Although some of the DEA agents participating in these parties denied it, the information in the case file suggested they should have known the prostitutes in attendance were paid with cartel funds. A foreign officer also alleged providing protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report said. “The foreign officers further alleged that in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA SSAs [special agents] in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members.”
The IG’s office asserts that DEA officials did not fully comply with their requests for information during the probe.
“We were also concerned by an apparent decision by DEA to withhold information regarding a particular open misconduct case,” the report states. “The OIG [Office of Inspector General] was not given access to this case file information until several months after our request, and only after the misconduct case was closed. Once we became aware of the information, we interviewed DEA employees who said that they were given the impression that they were not to discuss this case with the OIG while the case remained open.”
The report adds: “Therefore, we cannot be completely confident that the FBI and DEA provided us with all information relevant to this review. As a result, our report reflects the findings and conclusions we reached based on the information made available to us.”
Spokespersons for DEA and ATF said the agencies would not comment on the report and referred all questions to the Justice Department.
“The Department is already working with the law enforcement components to ensure a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and misconduct is enforced and that incidents are properly reported. The Department is also committed to ensuring the proper preservation and disclosure of electronic communications, including text messages and images,” said Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.
Other allegations outlined in the report include:
* A deputy U.S. Marshal “entered into a romantic relationship” with a fugitive’s spouse and would not break off the relationship for more than a year, even after being told by supervisors to end it;
* An ATF “Director of Industry Operations” had “solicited consensual sex with anonymous partners and modified a hotel room door to facilitate sexual play.” The ATF employee even disabled a hotel’s fire detection system, and when caught by the hotel, said he had done it before;
* “For over 3 years, an ATF Program Manager failed to report allegations that two training instructors were having consensual sex with their students. According to the incident report, the Program Manager learned the same instructors had engaged in substantially the same activities 3 years earlier but had merely counseled the training instructors without reporting the alleged activities” to the Internal Affairs Division.