Watchdog report faults DEA handling of sex party allegations

AP News
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Posted: Mar 26, 2015 12:33 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal watchdog on Thursday faulted the Drug Enforcement Administration over allegations that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes while stationed overseas on government-leased property.

The sex parties are just one example of questionable behavior highlighted in a report by the Justice Department inspector general that examines the department's handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations from 2009 to 2012.

It said some allegations were not fully investigated or went unreported to headquarters. It also criticized poor communication among internal affairs investigators assigned to look into the bad behavior and security officers responsible for the security clearance process.

The report describes allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes, funded by local drug cartels. Those claims came to light in a series of interviews with foreign police officers by DEA internal affairs investigators in 2009 and 2010. The parties were allegedly arranged over the course of several years by a foreign officer, who also alleged that several agents were provided with money, expensive gifts and weapons.

Seven agents ultimately admitted attending the parties. The DEA issued suspensions ranging from two days to 10 days, and one agent was cleared of wrongdoing. DEA is a unit of the Justice Department.

The report does not identify the country where the alleged sex parties occurred, but it does mention the existence of designated "tolerance zones" where prostitution is allowed and which are a fixture of several cities in Colombia, South America. A separate prostitution scandal involving the Secret Service had drawn attention to questionable behavior by law enforcement officers while stationed overseas, prompting Congress to order a review of other agencies' practices.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight & Reform, said bad behavior overseas poses a national security risk. "We need to weed out those who risk our national security, embarrass the county, and skirt the law," he said. "This needs to end."

In a statement, the Justice Department said it takes seriously the findings of the inspector general and is working to make improvements.