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Watchdog Report Faults DEA Handling of Sex Party Allegations

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

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 personnel responsible for the security clearance process. And it said the FBI and DEA balked at requests for information, to the point that investigators "cannot be completely confident" that they got complete information.

The report chronicles varied allegations of other inappropriate sexual behavior -- including unwanted advances, sex between training instructors and students and relationships between a supervisor and subordinate -- involving employees of federal law enforcement agencies within the Justice Department. Those include the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

One section of the report recounts allegations that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes, funded by local drug cartels, in a foreign county. 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 parties with prostitutes. The DEA issued suspensions ranging from two days to 10 days, and one agent was cleared of wrongdoing.

The report does not identify the country where the alleged sex parties occurred, but a federal law enforcement official confirmed it was Colombia. A separate 2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia 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. DEA agents who were accused of misconduct in the wake of that scandal were recalled from Colombia and put on limited duty.

The report criticizes the professional responsibility branch of the DEA, which investigated the allegations, for failing to report them to a separate office that ensures that employees meet the requirements to hold security clearances. The alleged sex parties took place in government-leased quarters where agents' phones and laptops were present, but investigators did not report the allegations because they "did not believe that the special agents' conduct rose to the level of a security risk requiring a referral."

Those communication lapses are a problem not just at the DEA but also at ATF and the Marshals Service, the report stated.

"In most cases where employees were alleged to have engaged in high-risk sexual behavior, security personnel were not informed about these incidents until long after they occurred or were never informed, even though such behavior presents possible significant security risks," it said.

In a statement, the Justice Department said it takes seriously the findings of the inspector general and is working to implement policies to prevent similar problems from arising in the future.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government 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."

Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, urged a zero-tolerance policy that would lead to the firing of any Justice Department employee found to have solicited prostitutes.

[Source: The New York Times, Ap, Washington, 26Mar15]

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