Move over, Secret Service, because another government agency has challenged for the party-culture championship. A Department of Justice Inspector General report accuses Drug Enforcement Agency personnel of having “sex parties” with hookers in Colombia, but at least government funds weren’t used to procure them. No, the bill got picked up by the drug cartels the DEA agents were supposed to investigate, as Politico’s John Bresnahan reports:
Agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency 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.
It gets better. Guess who watched the weapons while our agents partied with the cartels?
In addition, Colombian policemen 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 between two to 10 days.
Bribes apparently were de rigueur, too:
“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 parties in question took place between 2005-8, although the report itself covers the subsequent four years. One big question from this report is how the agents only got suspended for this activity. Shouldn’t this kind of behavior get an agent fired, especially since it gives the cartels lots of leverage over the agents in question? One has to wonder whether the threat of exposure allowed the cartels to get a lot more than their money’s worth out of this age-old honeypot scheme. Plus, it sure set some kind of example to Colombian police, which has been under tremendous US pressure to go after the same cartels that serviced our agents.
Bresnahan also notes that the report accuses the DEA of covering up the incidents. Even after the IG found out about the allegations (through a whistleblower), executives refused to allow the IG to access the file. In fact, the IG also said the FBI obstructed its investigation as well on unrelated charges of sexual harassment in the bureau:
The OIG’s ability to conduct this review was significantly impacted and delayed by the repeated difficulties we had in obtaining relevant information from both the FBI and DEA as we were initiating this review in mid-2013. Initially, the FBI and DEA refused to provide the OIG with unredacted information that was responsive to our requests, citing the Privacy Act of 1974 and concerns for victims and witnesses as the reasons for the extensive redactions, despite the fact that the OIG is authorized under the Inspector General Act to receive such information.
After months of protracted discussions with management at both agencies, the DEA and FBI provided the information without extensive redactions; but we found that the information was still incomplete. Ultimately, based on a review of information in the OIG Investigations Division databases, we determined that a material number of allegations from both DEA and FBI were not included in the original responses to our request for the information.
We were also concerned by an apparent decision by DEA to withhold information regarding a particular open misconduct case. The OIG 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 OIG was entitled to receive all such information from the outset, and the failure to provide it unnecessarily delayed our work.
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.
One case sounds similar to that which exposed the Secret Service scandal in Cartagena. A member of a “supervisor’s group” assaulted one of the prostitutes after a dispute over money, emphasis mine:
We found that a Regional Director, an Acting Assistant Regional Director (AARD), and a Group Supervisor failed to report through their chain of command or to the DEA OPR repeated allegations of DEA Special Agents (SA) patronizing prostitutes and frequenting a brothel while in an overseas posting, treating these allegations as local management issues.20 It was also alleged that one of the subjects in the supervisors’ group assaulted a prostitute following a payment dispute. The matter ultimately was reported to the DEA OPR in June 2010 in an anonymous letter alleging that two Special Agents had frequented prostitutes while in an overseas posting on a regular basis.
According to DEA OPR’s report of investigation, the agents’ in-country 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.
There is also a disturbing case involving the US Marshals Service. One deputy procured prostitutes in Bangkok, a city known for its trafficking in children, but only received a chewing-out:
A USMS supervisor failed to promptly report allegations that a Deputy U.S. Marshal (DUSM) solicited prostitutes while on an extradition mission in Bangkok, Thailand. According to the case file, the supervisor learned about the allegations when the DUSM’s colleague reported the matter to management. At that time, the supervisor met with the DUSM; the DUSM admitted the misconduct and received an oral admonishment.
Another deputy marshal took up with the girlfriend of a fugitive, which didn’t turn out well for anyone:
An Acting Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal (SDUSM) reported to district executive management allegations that a DUSM had an inappropriate relationship with the common law spouse of a fugitive. However, the Acting Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal, other district executive management, and a representative of the Office of General Counsel (OGC) failed to report these matters to OPR-IA and instead counseled the DUSM.
According to the OPR-IA report of investigation, an Acting SDUSM learned that a Deputy U.S. Marshal had entered into a romantic relationship with the common law spouse of a USMS fugitive. The Acting SDUSM contacted the USMS Office of General Counsel, Acting Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal, and another SDUSM in the district to determine how to handle the situation. Three supervisors instructed the DUSM to terminate the relationship, but the DUSM continued to pursue it without their knowledge for approximately 1 year. Neither the supervisors nor the OGC representative with whom they consulted reported the allegations to the OPR-IA.
When the relationship ended, the fugitive’s spouse lodged a complaint with the OIG, which referred the allegation back to USMS OPR-IA for handling as a management referral.2
The USMS appears to have at least cooperated with the IG probe.
This is an embarrassment for law enforcement in the US, especially in the DEA. It does raise, though, another interesting point. If an independent IG can eventually reconstruct all of this misconduct and corruption within the Department of Justice, perhaps another can do the same at State.