WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An internal government watchdog report has found that two former top officials at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration improperly reinstated the security clearance of a special agent who was having a sexual affair with a convicted criminal.
The report, released on Thursday by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, represents another black eye for the DEA, which came under criticism in 2015 after revelations that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes.
Former DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart resigned shortly after the inspector general released a scathing report on that scandal, which found numerous other failings related to the agency’s handling of sexual harassment and misconduct claims.
Thursday’s report concluded that Leonhart “shares responsibility” for a “flawed decision” by former DEA Acting Chief Inspector Herman E. “Chuck” Whaley to improperly intervene in getting a security clearance reinstated for a special agent who had engaged in “serious misconduct.”
A DEA spokeswoman did not have any immediate comment on the report, and Leonhart could not be immediately reached. Whaley, who now works in Florida at the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office, could not be reached for comment.
The inspector general’s report said the DEA’s Office of Professional Responsibility first learned in 2013 about the agent’s sexual affair.
The agent gave his lover access to a DEA drug evidence room, let her listen to recorded calls with investigative targets and had sex with her in the office, the report said.
However, the office failed to report the issue to the DEA’s office in charge of adjudicating security clearances.
The Office of Security Programs finally learned about the problem in 2014 during a routine re-investigation to review the agent’s eligibility to maintain a security clearance and suspended it in March 2015.
Three days later, however, Whaley decided to have it reinstated on grounds that his behavior “did not raise national security issues,” the report said.
Leonhart did not directly intervene, but “acquiesced” to Whaley’s decision, it added.
“This situation is particularly remarkable,” the report said, because it arose at the very same time that the watchdog office released its 2015 findings.
The report cleared Leonhart of having lied when she testified under oath to Congress that she had no impact on security clearances. But the Justice Department said it was concerned her testimony did not reflect the degree to which the DEA administrator has authority in the disciplinary process.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Tom Brown