According to a shocking report released Thursday by the Department of Justice, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration engaged in "sex parties" with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia. The Inspector General's report also alleges that a foreign officer provided protection for the DEA agents' weapons during the parties, and that three agents in particular "were provided money, expensive gifts, and weapons from drug cartel members."
The cartel-funded parties took place over a period of several years in agents' government-leased quarters, creating potential security risks. Seven of the 10 agents implicated ultimately admitted to attending the parties, according to the report. The DEA responded by imposing penalties ranging from a two-day suspension to a 10-day suspension.
"The allegations set forth in today's DOJ OIG report are truly stunning," Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement Thursday. "Let there be no mistake this is a national security threat. 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 misconduct occurred for several years while these special agents held Top Secret clearances."'
A White House official said in a brief statement that "the President expects nothing less than complete professionalism from all of our federal workers, and has zero tolerance for any sexual misconduct -- especially from those who have the responsibility of enforcing the law. The President expects the Department of Justice to address this serious issue in a swift and thorough manner."
The Inspector General's report, which was conducted to assess sexual misconduct and harassment allegations made against employees of the Justice Department's four law enforcement agencies, looked at claims made against Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and the United States Marshals Service (USMS). The report specifically cites the DEA and FBI for not fully cooperating with the investigation.
The allegations of sexual misconduct are not the first to hit a federal law enforcement agency. In 2012, eight Secret Service agents were fired in the wake of revelations that they solicited prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of a visit by President Obama. A Justice Department investigation found that two DEA agents arranged an encounter between a prostitute and a Secret Service officer.
Later, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official who investigated the 2012 scandal resigned in August 2014 after allegedly being questioned about hiring a prostitute in Florida. The official, David Nieland, denied the allegations in an emailed message to The New York Times, which first broke the story, and declined at the time to answer additional questions posed by NBC News.
"The gross misconduct of DEA agents follows a disturbing pattern of risky and improper behavior afflicting Homeland Security and the Department of Justice," Rep. Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, said Thursday in response to the latest scandal. "We need to weed out those who risk our national security, embarrass the country, and skirt the law. We need to find the root of the culture and management problems inside these agencies that allow such behavior to be left unchecked. This needs to end. "