The Cable

DEA Agents Partied With Prostitutes Paid for by Colombian Cartels

An internal review found DEA agents participated in sex parties with Colombian prostitutes. The drug cartels they are charged with stopping picked up the tab.

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Secret Service agents aren’t the only ones who like to party with prostitutes: An internal Justice Department review released Thursday found that Drug Enforcement Administration agents like to get down with purveyors of the world’s oldest profession as well. They just don’t like to pick up the tab.

According to Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, DEA agents had “sex parties” with prostitutes in Colombia — a horrible black eye for an agency charged with stopping the flow of illegal drugs from that part of the world. What makes things worse is that the prostitutes were paid for by the cartels these agents are charged with stopping, something the agents should have known, according to Horowitz.

Ironically, these parties allegedly occurred in the same country where Secret Service agents got busted with prostitutes in 2012. But it’s not the only similarity the two services share: Each appears to have a culture where bad behavior is tolerated, doesn’t get reported up the chain of command, and usually goes unpunished until an outside event — an IG report in the case of the DEA, and a March 4 incident when the Secret Service botched a response to a suspicious package — pushes them into the public view.

The IG report also found that Colombian police officers provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties.” Three of the DEA agents also allegedly accepted cash, weapons, and expensive gifts from cartels.

Women of the night seem stunningly easy to find during the day in Colombia. Horowitz’s review says that “it is common for prostitutes to be present at business meetings involving cartel members and foreign officers.”

A spokesman at the DEA’s media office said the agency did not have a comment on the report. A Justice Department spokesman told Foreign Policy in an email that it takes the report seriously and is working to stop similar incidents in the future.

The review was part of an investigation into sexual harassment at the highest levels of federal law enforcement, including at the DEA, FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. From 2008 to 2012 — the period the review covered — 26 agents were accused of soliciting prostitutes, it was discovered. Of those, 19 came from within the DEA. Horowitz also said the FBI and DEA were initially uncooperative with the investigation.

Horowitz, who also found that instances of solicitation were known to superiors but not reported to the Office of Professional Responsibility, said this behavior was more than harmless fun.

“Most of the sex parties occurred in government-leased quarters where agents’ laptops, BlackBerry devices, and other government issued equipment were present … potentially exposing them to extortion, blackmail, or coercion,” Horowitz wrote.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the finding “truly stunning.”

“Let there be no mistake, this is a national security threat,” Chaffetz said in a written statement. “We need to hold them accountable, and given the clear evidence in the OIG report, they should be fired immediately.”

Photo Credit: AFP

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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