- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014

Drug Enforcement Administration agents are solely to blame for the wrongful incarceration of Daniel Chong, including four employees who spoke with Mr. Chong during the five days he was imprisoned without food or water, an investigative report released Thursday said.

Mr. Chong made national headlines in 2012 when it was discovered he had been held by the DEASan Diego field office for five days in a cell without food or water and with his hands still cuffed behind his back. He drank his own urine to avoid dehydration and required hospitalization upon his release.

Now the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, the Inspector General, has completed its investigation and concluded that agents’ actions led to Mr. Chong’s “unjustified detention and his need for significant medical treatment.”

Employees at the DEA office appeared to have forgotten they had detained Mr. Chong in a cell, despite earlier telling him he would be released. No one checked the cells at the end of the day and there was no video surveillance in the area to remind anyone they had a prisoner, the IG said.

The four employees who interacted with Mr. Chong during his incarceration all told the IG that they didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, and assumed that whoever had arrested Mr. Chong would soon be coming to get him.

That seems to contradicts widely published reports that Mr. Chong was found covered in his own feces and bleeding from his arm where he had used a shard of glass to attempt to carve “Sorry Mom” as a farewell message.

“How is it that four DEA employees could have seen Mr. Chong during his five-day incarceration, and not notice something was amiss?” questioned Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

“A public accounting of the reckless conduct by the DEA that almost led to Mr. Chong’s death in its holding facility in San Diego is long overdue,” he said. “But in some ways, the Inspector General’s report raises more questions than it answers.”

Both Mr. Grassley and the IG also expressed concern that the San Diego office tried to launch its own investigation following the incident. Field office personnel “processed” the holding cell Mr. Chong was in, which potentially could have removed evidence.

Likewise there was “a clear conflict of interest,” the IG said, because those investigating the crime were “among those whose conduct contributed to the improper detention of Chong and whose conduct was, therefore, subject to scrutiny.”

Mr. Grassley called the agency’s actions “simply outrageous” and said he will continue to hold responsible those accountable.

Mr. Chong, a student at the University of California, San Diego, had been swept up and questioned as part of a drug enforcement operation, but was thrown into a cell despite being told he would soon be released.

He wasn’t rescued until several days later when he was discovered by DEA agents who had not been involved in the initial drug sting.

Last year the Justice Department reached a $4.1 million settlement with Mr. Chong over his imprisonment.