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House Oversight Committee Condemns DEA Chief Michele Leonhart

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Yesterday DEA Chief Michele Leonhart testified in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in regards to DEA agents participating in sex parties in Columbia with prostitutes that were paid for by cartel members. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued the following statement today, condemning DEA Chief Michele Leonhart:

Today, after listening to testimony during yesterday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on “DOJ IG: Handling of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Allegations,” Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) joined with fellow committee Members in expressing no confidence in DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

“After over a decade of serving in top leadership positions at DEA, Administrator Leonhart has been woefully unable to change or positively influence the pervasive “good old boy” culture that exists throughout the agency. From her testimony, it is clear that she lacks the authority and will to make the tough decisions required to hold those accountable who compromise national security and bring disgrace to their position . Ms. Leonhart has lost the confidence of this Committee to initiate the necessary reforms to restore the reputation of a vital agency.”

Members joining the statement include: 

Rep. Amash (R-MI)
Rep. Boyle (D-PA)
Rep. Carter (R-GA)
Rep. Connolly (D-VA)
Rep. DeSaulnier (D-CA)
Rep. Duncan (R-TN)
Rep. Farenthold (R-TX)
Rep. Hice (R-GA)
Rep. Kelly (D-IL)
Rep. Lawrence (D-MI)
Rep. Lujan Grisham (D-NM)
Rep. Lynch (D-MA)
Rep. Maloney (D-NY)
Rep. Meadows (R-NC)
Rep. Mulvaney (R-SC)
Rep. Norton (D-D.C.)
Rep. Palmer (R-AL)
Rep. Plaskett (D-VI)
Rep. Walberg (D-MI)
Rep. Welch (D-VT)

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Law Enforcement Against Prohibition issued the following response:

Today, twenty two members of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issued a statement of ‘No Confidence” in Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart for continued failed leadership during numerous scandals and direct conflicts with the Obama Administration. The bipartisan statement was issued in the wake of congressional hearings investigating a sex scandal involving DEA agents in South America who purchased sex workers with American tax dollars.

“There’s simply no excuse for the outrageous behavior of the DEA’s so-called leadership,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice group working to end the drug war. “Leonhart just helps us add to the list of reasons of why we need to rethink our entire approach to drug policy.”

The Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General currently has six open investigations into scandals perpetrated by the DEA involving murder and torture, covert data collection of Americans used for evidence fabrication, and a massacre in Honduras. In addition, Leonhart has repeatedly flaunted administration policy and opposed policies based on scientific evidence and best practices.

LEAP is committed to ending decades of failed policy that have created underground markets and gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, and largely ignored the public health crisis of addiction. The war on drugs has cost more than one trillion dollars, yielded only disastrous outcomes, and ultimately diverted the penal system’s attention away from more important crimes.

The Drug Policy Alliance issued the following response:

Today, members of the House Oversight Committee have issued a statement of “No Confidence” in Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart. The unprecedented move by a group of over twenty bipartisan lawmakers comes a day after her shambolic performance in Congress during a hearing focused on DEA agents who paid for sex workers and sex parties using taxpayer dollars.  Leonhart was widely panned and her answers deemed inadequate during testimony on her agency’s handling of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

“This ought to be the final nail in the Leonhart coffin,” said Bill Piper, Director of National Affairs at Drug Policy Alliance. “I cannot see how President Obama and AG Holder allow her to continue in her role. It’s hard to think of a more incompetent and out of touch federal official than the current DEA chief.”

The call to dismiss Leonhart comes against a backdrop of scandals and incompetence at the DEA, which have dominated Leonhart’s tenure. Some of the more egregious incidents during Leonhart’s tenure include:

  • The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General currently has six open investigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data to both spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, and controversial uses of confidential informants.
  • DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.
  • DEA conflicts with Obama administration policy. Last year, Leonhart publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and spoke out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama administration is supporting.
  • Last May, The DEA created a political firestorm this week when it seized seeds bound for a Kentucky hemp research program that was approved by Congress. Then Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the incident “an outrage” and the Kentucky Agriculture Department sued the DEA.  
  • The DEA’s refusal to acknowledge science. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart has on several occasions ignored science and overruled the DEA’s own administrative law judges on medical issues relating to marijuana.

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) have previously called on Leonhart to resign, with Polis commenting that he “found her to be completely incompetent and unknowledgeable.”

“Her time is up,” said Bill Piper. “Leonhart has clashed with Republicans, Democrats, the White House, and civil society leaders. She reflects an outdated approach to the drug war that President Obama claims he wants to leave behind.”

Learn more about the recent scandal and the corrupt history of the DEA on the DPA Blog: The DEA “Sex Scandal” is Not About Sex – It’s About Corruption and Impunity in the War on Drugs

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