NEW YORK -- Female agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms accuse the agency of widespread sexual harassment and of trying to quash their complaints through intimidation, according to a CBS News '60 Minutes' story to be aired Sunday.
Three agents told the news program that during their careers with the Treasury Department agency, both superiors and co-workers routinely coaxed or tried to force them into sex, even during surveillance activities, and often in view of other workers.
And when the agents filed formal complaints, the bureau launched investigations and smear campaign against them, eventually leading to one agent's demotion, CBS reported.
That agent, Sandra Davis, charged that her initial interview with the bureau took place in a hotel room where the interviewer, whom she identified as agent Mike Gonzalez, tried to intimidate her into having sex with him.
Agent Michele Roberts said she was sexually harassed at the bureau for years. 'I had dildoes left on my desk every morning when I came in to work... On another occasion I was held against the hood of my car and I had my clothes ripped at by two other agents.'
When a formal complaint was filed within the bureau against Gonzalez, the agency in turn launched a probe of Davis, producing a background report that alleged she 'had a history of mental illness...was promiscious and (used drugs),' Davis told CBS.
Stephen Higgins, the bureau's director, told '60 Minutes' his agency takes sexual harassment charges seriously and does not condone retaliation against alleged victims.
'Reprisal is as much a violation of the law as the original harassment,' Higgins said in the interview. 'It's not acceptable here and we do take action about it.'
Robert Harris, a staffer for Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, told CBS he directed a Senate committee investigation into ATF, and said its findings support the agents' claims, especially regarding retaliatory action against whistleblowers.
'First, that supervisor may totally attack their credibility, totally attack their competence as a performer in their particular work. ...Once you file a complaint, you become retroactively incompetent.'NEWLN: (