Hey, this is fun: agents for the Drug Enforcement Administration based in Colombia have been attending sex parties with local sex workers since at least 2001, parties that are paid for in part by local drug cartels. Nobody’s getting fired. Why would anybody get fired?
As the New York Times reports, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo — an official memo ! — on Friday firmly reminding all Justice Department employees not to pay for sex, even in countries where that is legal. That rule, he wrote, is sort of an important one “not simply because it invites extortion, blackmail, and leaks of sensitive or classified information, but also because it undermines the Department’s efforts to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking.”
The memo was spurred by two things: a report released in March from the Justice Department’s Inspector General outlining the frequency (a lot) and seriousness (very) of the “sexual misconduct” of DEA agents in Colombia. Like, say, how DEA supervisors in Colombia knew sex parties were happening at the DEA’s government-paid-for living quarters, yet didn’t report it to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). From the report:
According to DEA OPR’s report of investigation, the agents’ incountry supervisors were aware of several loud parties with prostitutes that occurred at a Special Agent’s government-leased quarters, because the Special Agent had received four complaint letters from building management, who had also informed local DEA management about the complaints between August 2005 and December 2008. In subsequent interviews with DEA OPR, this SA said that a Group Supervisor, the Regional Director, and the Acting Assistant Regional Director had warned the SA to discontinue the parties or be removed from the overseas assignment. However, they did not inform DEA OPR about the allegations.
Furthermore, the DEA’s whole, you know, purpose for existing — enforcing drug laws and preventing illegal drugs from entering the United States — is rather undermined by who they were partyin’ with:
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. 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 foreign officers further alleged that in addition to soliciting prostitutes, three DEA SSAs in particular were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members.
When they were asked why they thought all that might be okay, the DEA agents said because that’s how it works over there, so, you know, when in Rome (have sex with someone you’re paying at a party sponsored by drug cartels):
The DEA Inspector told us that prostitution is considered a part of the local culture and is tolerated in certain areas called “tolerance zones.” According to the Inspector, it is common for prostitutes to be present at business meetings involving cartel members and foreign officers. The DEA Inspector also stated that the acceptability of this type of behavior affects the way in which federal law enforcement employees conduct themselves in this particular country.
The report came out last month, though; what seems to have motivated Holder’s stern memo was the news last week that the parties have been going on for nearly 15 years, involving both DEA and Secret Service agents. That little tidbit came out during a House Oversight Committee hearing Tuesday on the allegations. That was the same hearing where we got to hear the punishment, which was way harsh: “Ten DEA agents were accused of wrongdoing; seven were issued suspensions ranging from one to 10 days.”
My goodness, that does seem rash. Who knows how many sex parties you might miss in ten days?
For once, Democrats and Republicans are unified in their total disgust. From the AP:
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the oversight panel, said the new report “details a truly breathtaking recklessness by DEA agents.” Cummings said he cannot understand how such “egregious misconduct could have continued for so long” without being addressed.
Cummings and other committee members sharply questioned Leonhart at Tuesday’s hearing, asking why agents were not fired, nor their names released.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., called it “stunning” that no one had been fired in the wake of the allegations.
“What would it take to get fired at the DEA?” he asked.
Leonhart, who was confirmed as DEA chief in 2010 after three years in an acting role, 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, Leonhart said.
“What the hell do you get to do?” Gowdy asked incredulously.
Rep. Cumming also said the necessity of a “don’t have sex with sex workers” memo constituted an “all-time low” for the DEA. I’m sure they can do worse, guys. Just wait.
Photo via AP