DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart Expected to Resign

By Zachary Siegel 04/21/15

The Bush-era holdover had a rocky tenure plagued by scandal and incompetency.

Michele Leonhart
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After a damning report of scandals and sex parties funded by drug cartels ran last month, Michele Leonhart, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is expected to resign.

The Justice Department investigation revealed DEA leaders not only failed to report that their agents alleged to have solicited sexual relations with sex workers, but that valuable information of the misconduct was redacted, concealing the full extent of the misbehavior.

Both Republicans and Democrats are outraged by the lack of corrective action Leonhart took in light of the wrongdoings. In an appearance before Congress, Leonhart said that government employee protections made it difficult for her to fire anyone over the scandal.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked the DEA to hand over all documents related to such misconduct, while revealing that this kind of misbehavior dated back to at least 2001.

The extent of the impropriety reveals "a truly breathtaking recklessness by DEA agents who are sworn to protect our country," said top Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee.

Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, cited a 2009 incident where a DEA agent stationed in Columbia was accused of hitting a prostitute with a glass bottle. But the agent claimed the woman harmed herself having a seizure.

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo, said in his affairs with Leonhart he has “found her to be completely incompetent and unknowledgeable.” 

Though the sex scandals have brought the headlines, other DEA misconduct has put the agency under close watch. For example, during a 2012 DEA raid in Honduras, four innocent people were murdered, one of which was a teenager and the other two were pregnant women.

With respect to Leonhart, government officials have spoken out about her incompetency. In a June 2012 committee hearing she refused to say that marijuana is less harmful than crack or heroin, stating the comparison would be “subjective.” She later said that marijuana was an “insidious” drug.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.