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Judiciary Committee Leaders Press Justice Department for Overdue Answers on DEA Foreign Operations

WASHINGTON – Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), respectively ranking member and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are seeking additional information about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) oversight of its foreign operations, including the closure of a special DEA unit in Mexico that Mexican officials claim was infiltrated by criminals. The senators’ letter follows an unanswered inquiry from last November.
“After more than six months, and despite multiple follow-up requests from both of our offices, we have received neither the briefing we requested nor a response to our November 16, 2021, letter. By any measure, such an extended delay is unacceptable,” the senators wrote. “…Furthermore, recent developments in Mexico raise additional concerns and speak to an ongoing need for congressional oversight.”
In their letter to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, the senators voice serious concerns about the DEA’s lack of engagement with its committee of jurisdiction and outline concerns stemming from the Mexican president’s announcement that a DEA sensitive investigative unit operating in Mexico was closed last year. Other media reports describe this unit as “deeply dysfunctional and constantly leaking to the cartels.”  The senators also ask the DEA to explain the circumstances surrounding the reported removal of an airplane used in DEA missions against drug cartels. This is the latest in a series of longstanding concerns about DEA’s oversight of its overseas operations.
An August 2021 report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and a report from U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) raised serious concerns about the lack of oversight of DEA operations abroad. Grassley and Durbin sought specific information about the status of some of these operations and the steps being taken to comply with OIG’s recommendations in November 2021. They raised specific concerns about operations involving a leak in Mexico, agents fraternizing with prostitutes in Colombia and two DEA-associated individuals in Haiti arrested or wanted by authorities in connection with the assassination of that country’s president. The senators have not received any substantive response from the DEA.
Full text of Grassley’s and Durbin’s letter to DEA can be found HERE.