DEA chief in hot seat over sex scandal
The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration is in the hot seat over allegations that federal agents engaged in illegal sex parties paid for by drug cartels.
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart “looked the other way” and let the federal agents off with “essentially a vacation” as a punishment for having sex with Colombian prostitutes, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday during a hearing.
“So these agents compromised our national security and then essentially got a vacation,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) charged. “The punishment for this was two to 10 days off paid leave.”
Both Republicans and Democrats took shots at Leonhart, with some calling for “new leadership” at the DEA. She’ll be back on Capitol Hill Wednesday testifying before what promises to be an equally hostile House Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Justice Department’s inspector general released a report on March 26, accusing DEA agents of participating in sex parties funded by the drug cartels they were supposed to be investigating.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), called the sex scandal “deplorable.”
“The inspector general’s report details conduct that is deplorable for anyone, let alone law enforcement officials serving the United States of America,” Cummings said at the hearing.
The alleged sex parties date back as early as 2001 and occurred largely before Leonhart took over at the DEA in February 2010, according to excerpts of internal agency records released Tuesday by Cummings’s office. But Chaffetz alleged that she tried to “sweep them under the rug.”
None of the federal agents who participated in these sex parties were fired, according to the DEA’s internal documents. The punishments ranged from suspensions of one day to 10 days.
Chaffetz called it “reprehensible.”
“It is incumbent upon the leadership of these law enforcement agencies to weed out employees who put our security at risk, embarrass the country and break the law,” Chaffetz said.
Leonhart claims she does not have the authority to fire these federal agents, but Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) accused the DEA chief of “protecting” the federal agents who engaged in these sex parties.
“I think the problem now is you’re protecting these people who solicited prostitutes, used taxpayer money to do it and, I believe, compromised national security,” Lynch said at the hearing.
“This is a disgrace,” he added.
Leonhart fired back: “As far as protecting them, I take great offense to that,” she said. “I’m offended by their conduct; I’m offended by their behavior; I’m trying to fix the system.”
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