The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is “to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.” However, it seems that the agency takes a “hands-off” approach to dealing with its own employees accused of participating in the activities it was created to fight. USA Today reports:
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has allowed its employees to stay on the job despite internal investigations that found they had distributed drugs, lied to the authorities or committed other serious misconduct, newly disclosed records show.
The DEA’s internal affairs arm investigates about 200 cases of misconduct every year, but the agents involved are most often cleared. Since 2010, the DEA’s Board of Professional Conduct has recommended that 50 employees be canned for misconduct. However, of that number, only 13 have actually been fired. Some of those fired were rehired after appealing. The most common penalties for agents found guilty are “letters of causation” or an unpaid suspension of a few days. Former DEA internal affairs investigator Carl Pike said, “If we conducted an investigation, and an employee actually got terminated, I was surprised. I was truly, truly surprised. Like, wow, the system actually got this guy.”
In March, several agents were found to have attended drug cartel-funded “sex parties” while posted in Colombia. Those agents were given suspensions between two and ten days. USA Today reports:
Two weeks later, exasperated lawmakers pressed the DEA’s administrator, Michele Leonhart, on why she hadn’t fired them. Federal law doesn’t allow it, she replied.
“If somebody murdered somebody, could you fire him?” asked Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
“If someone murdered someone, there would be criminal charges, and that’s how they would be fired,” she said.
Leonhart resigned a week later. She could not be reached for comment.