Several agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) engaged in "sex parties" with prostitutes paid for by Colombian drug cartels, according to a report by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General released Thursday.
Furthermore, the report's authors say the full extent of the sexual misconduct of DEA agents is not yet known because the agency dragged its feet and withheld or redacted information during the investigation. The local DEA leaders failed to report allegations of their agents patronizing prostitutes and frequenting a brothel. At least one of them was alleged to have solicited and engaged in sexual relations with prostitutes.
Through a series of interviews conducted in 2009 and 2010, the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility learned from Colombian police officers that several agents had solicited prostitutes and engaged in other misconduct.
"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 report says. "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."
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The report also says that the foreign officer claims to have provided protection for the agents' weapons and property during the parties, which occurred in government-leased quarters.
"The misconduct occurred for several years while these special agents held Top Secret clearances. Many of these agents were alleged to have engaged in this high-risk sexual behavior while at their government-leased quarters, raising the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents' conduct," the report says.
Seven of 10 agents who were accused admitted to attending parties with prostitutes, the report says, and were suspended for periods ranging from two to 10 days. One agent was cleared of all wrongdoing.
Other foreign officers alleged that three supervisory special agents received money, expensive gifts and weapons from drug cartel members.
Still, the Office of Professional Responsibility said it believes the agents' conduct constituted a local management issue and not a security risk.
Though the DEA's Office of Professional Responsibility did not learn about the sex parties until it received an anonymous tip in June 2010, the parties appear to date back to at least 2005. The management from the building where the sex parties took place sent four complaint letters to both the special agent who hosted the parties, as well as to the local DEA management between August 2005 and December 2008. The agent was warned to discontinue to parties, but the misconduct was not reported beyond local management at the time.
"The Department of Justice takes the issues raised in the Inspector General report seriously and...is taking steps to implement policies and procedures to help prevent them from happening in the future," said Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush. "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."
DEA agents were also connected to scandal in which Secret Service agents hired prostitutes while visiting Colombia ahead of President Obama's visit there for a summit in 2012. A DEA agent hired a prostitute to give a massage to a Secret Service agent and facilitated payment for the agent's sexual encounter with the prostitute.
In the report, the Inspector General said its ability to conduct the review was "significantly impacted and delayed" in receiving information from the DEA. The agency waited several months to provide the inspector general with case file information, and ultimately provided it with such heavy redactions that it was impossible to understand.
The review, which also details misconduct at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and the United States Marshals Service, covers the period from fiscal year 2009 to 2012.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who called the report "stunning," is promising to follow up on the report to "weed out those who risk our national security, embarrass the country, and skirt the law."
"While the vast majority of employees do quality work, the bad apples highlighted in the report taint their service. We need to hold them accountable and, given the clear evidence in the OIG report, they should be fired immediately. The gross misconduct of DEA agents follows a disturbing pattern of risky and improper behavior afflicting Homeland Security and the Department of Justice," Chaffetz said in a statement.