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The DEA has been caught up in so many scandals lately it is hard to keep track but the one the embattled agency faced yesterday in a hearing before Congress was particularly embarrassing. Members of Congress grilled DEA officials over a report that showed that DEA agents had sex parties with prostitutes connected to Colombian drug cartels. 

Representatives from both parties told DEA officials that the conduct was unacceptable as was the lack of serious punishment for said conduct. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart responded to the criticism over punishment by saying that rules made it difficult to fire employees or interfere in disciplinary processes. The report noted that DEA agents often used leftover public funds for the sex parties that began in 2001 and are believed to have ended in 2008.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz highlighted one incident where a DEA agent assaulted a prostitute over payment for sex and received two weeks leave:

Leonhart responded that government employee protections make it hard for her to fire anyone. While the FBI is exempt from some civil service protections, the DEA director and other federal directors “are not allowed to invoke ourselves in the disciplinary process,” she said.

Chaffetz, however, was incredulous that Leonhart couldn’t take more action. He cited a July 2009 incident in which a DEA agent in Bogota, Colombia was accused of physically assaulting a prostitute over a payment dispute. A security guard witnessed this agent throwing a glass and hitting the woman, though the agent claimed the woman harmed herself after having a seizure.”And you know what the punishment for this person was?” Chaffetz said. “Fourteen days unpaid leave. Go on vacation for two weeks. This person was imposing a national security risk.”

The DEA is estimated to have had 15 to 20 sex parties in Colombia during the time under review along with agents using prostitutes on an individual basis. Many of the prostitutes used by the DEA agents were connected to Colombian drug cartels putting the agents in a ripe position to be blackmailed or extorted.

The DEA has also been facing serious criticism for its involvement in a wide ranging phone surveillance program that operated prior to 9/11 as well as questionable cooperation with the NSA and other agencies.

Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.