DEA Agent Gave Convict Girlfriend Access To Evidence, Classified Info; Received Almost No Punishment
from the above-the-law-and-unaffected-by-useless-internal-policies dept
Routine misconduct by DEA agents? The DEA could not possibly care less. An Inspector General’s report released in 2015 in the aftermath of a sex-parties-and-harassment investigation showed 8 of the 14 agents investigated received bonuses and awards while still under investigation, a violation of DEA policy. None of the agents were fired or even demoted. The DEA’s unwillingness to address serious misdeeds seriously made it clear DEA agents are nigh un-fireable.
Even minor disciplinary actions tend to be rolled back, as the Inspector General’s office reports [PDF]. An agent engaging in plenty of unrelated misconduct found himself stripped of his security clearance, but only momentarily. The list of things the agent did wrong is as impressive as it is disturbing. [h/t Brad Heath]
The DEA Office of Professional Responsibility (DEA OPR) learned about the Special Agent’s misconduct in 2013. The Special Agent admitted to DEA OPR that he had, among other things: carried on an extramarital affair with a woman who was a convicted criminal; allowed her after-hours access to a DEA office, including a drug evidence room; allowed her to listen to recorded telephone calls of subjects of DEA investigations; and had sex with her on numerous occasions in the DEA office and his DEA vehicle.
That the DEA chose not to fire this employee or subject him to something harsher than a (very) temporary suspension of his security clearance is no surprise given the DEA’s historical disinterest in disciplining its employees.
Although the OIG found that there were relatively few such allegations reported for fiscal years 2009 through 2012, the report identified significant systemic issues with the components’ processes for handling these important matters that led the OIG to recommend prompt corrective action by the Department.24 Most notably, with respect to the DEA, the OIG found instances where DEA OPR failed to refer allegations involving sexual behavior that raised security concerns to Security Programs, potentially exposing DEA employees to coercion, extortion, and blackmail, all of which create security risks.25 The OIG also found instances where DEA OPR failed to fully investigate allegations of serious sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
Following the DEA’s investigation of the agent, officials decided to strip him of his security clearance. But this was swiftly reversed.
Based on the Special Agent’s misconduct and inconsistent statements, on March 24, 2015, the DEA Security Programs Manager (SPM) suspended the Special Agent’s clearance, rendering him ineligible for access to classified (and, by DEA policy, ineligible for access to DEA sensitive information). However, 3 days later, then-DEA Acting Chief Inspector Herman E. “Chuck” Whaley instructed the SPM to reinstate the Special Agent’s clearance.
Whaley’s reasoning: this obviously-untrustworthy employee could be trusted with his security clearance because his long list of violations didn’t have national security implications. This call was made despite the agent being unable to say for sure how much classified info he’d allowed his convicted criminal girlfriend to see nor being able to fully recall how often (and for how long) he’d allowed her to roam the DEA’s evidence room unattended. Whaley made this decision unilaterally, bypassing the SPM and others charged with controlling security clearances.
The report points out Whaley misunderstood his position within the DEA hierarchy, thus arriving at the mistaken conclusion he could reinstate security clearances without running it by the SPM. But, as the Inspector General points out, the decision was still a terrible one to make, especially in light of all the other information Whaley had access to.
Whaley’s actions also reflected a disregard for the OIG’s findings in the several drafts (October 2014, February 2015, March 2015) and final (March 2015) reports regarding the handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations by the DEA and other DOJ components. Whaley was familiar with the OIG review, having received a draft report as early as October 2014, and was responsible for revising DEA policy to address this precise issue. Among other things, the OIG report identified security risks created when DEA OPR employees untrained in security adjudications were allowed to determine whether to refer findings of sexual or other misconduct to Security Programs.
Nonetheless in late March 2015, Whaley reviewed DEA OPR’s August 2013 Stentsen investigation, which identified both sexual conduct and potential security concerns (including disclosing DEA sensitive information to unauthorized personnel, using a state law enforcement database for personal reasons, providing a girlfriend with access to the DEA facility after hours, and associating with a criminal), and he did not make any effort to discuss the matter with Cone, ensure that he himself was aware of all the relevant information, or ask whether the Stentsen case warranted closer attention given the findings in the OIG report. Whaley’s lack of leadership in this regard is particularly troubling considering that on March 26 (the day before Whaley instructed Cone to reverse his decision), the OIG publicly released the final report, Congress ordered hearings, and the national media reported the story.
The OIG also finds it worrying Whaley was more concerned about superficialities, rather than ensuring his underling was properly disciplined for his severe misconduct.
Whaley told the OIG that had he known that Stentsen had received notification of his suspension, he would not have directed Cone to reinstate the security clearance essentially because it would have looked unprofessional for DEA to change positions after the fact. Putting aside the suggestion that substantive decisions on security clearances would be impacted by such consideration of appearances, we note that Cone had e-mailed Whaley a copy of the final signed and dated suspension memorandum to Stentsen on March 24 but Whaley was not aware that it had already been sent to Stentsen’s supervisors and served on Stentsen.
It’s just more evidence America’s law enforcement agencies are far more concerned with external police work than with internal accountability. It also shows the DEA is systemically averse to internal discipline. The scandal referenced earlier made headlines around the nation, but DEA officials still refused to hand out anything more than wrist slaps. And those wrist slaps often came packaged with bonuses, awards, and personnel moves that strongly suggested the DEA was willing to forgive all but the most egregious misconduct, even while under the glare of the national spotlight.