Drug Enforcement Administration agents stationed overseas held sex parties with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels — the very people the agency was supposed to be investigating — according to a report released Thursday by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General.
Investigators discovered not only the parties, but also attempts to keep evidence from becoming public.
The report did not specify the country where the parties took place. But it followed an earlier probe of allegations that DEA agents in Cartegena, Colombia arranged for a prostitute to meet with a Secret Service supervisor in 2012.
That scandal prompted the Inspector General’s Office to take a broader look at how the Justice Department’s four law enforcement agencies — the DEA, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Explosives and FBI and Marshals Service — handle allegations of sexual misconduct. The review covered October 2008 to September 2012, according to the report. In addition to the sex parties, the office found evidence of other inappropriate behavior, some involving prostitutes, others involving relationships between superiors and subordinates and unwanted, sometimes lurid, advances from colleagues.
Some of these cases weren’t properly investigated or were not run up the chain of command, the report said.
The sex-party allegations were originally made by local police officers, who told investigators from the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility that 10 agents had attended the sex parties at their government-leased building over a period of several years, according to the report. The local officers also said that three of the agents were given money, expensive gifts and weapons from cartel members. One of the officers said he provided protection for the agents’ weapons and property during the parties.
Eventually, seven of the agents admitted attending the parties. The agents served suspensions ranging from two days to 10 days, the report said. One was cleared of wrongdoing.
When the Inspector General’s Office investigators looked into the case, they spoke to the DEA’s own inspector, who told them that prostitution was considered part of the local culture and was condoned in certain areas called “tolerance zones,” according to the report. The inspector said it was common for prostitutes to be present at business meetings involving cartel members and foreign officers. She also said she’d told the Office of Professional Responsibility that the parties could have exposed the agents to attempts at extortion or blackmail.
Inspector General’s Office investigators also said they were hindered at several points in their review by the DEA’s refusal to hand over information related to that case and others.
The White House responded to Thursday’s report by saying President Obama “has zero tolerance for any sexual misconduct — especially from those who have the responsibility of enforcing the law” and expected the Justice Department to “address this serious issue in a swift and thorough manner.”
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement that he found the allegations “truly stunning” and that they represented “a national security threat.”
— Jon Schuppe