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June 10, 2013

US State Department Accused of Covering-up Overseas Misconduct

by Scott Stearns

A U.S. television network is alleging that State Department officials have tried to cover up alleged sexual misconduct by American diplomats serving overseas.

The U.S. broadcaster CBS News says it has obtained a memo from the State Department's Inspector General reporting that several recent investigations into misconduct overseas were influenced or manipulated.

The CBS News report says the memo cites specific examples. Among them are allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual assaults" on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. There also are allegations that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries."

The CBS News report says members of the State Department's security force were told to stop investigating a U.S. ambassador suspected of patronizing a prostitute in a public park. It quotes the memo as saying that "Hindering such cases calls into question the integrity of the investigative process, can result in counterintelligence vulnerabilities and can allow criminal behavior to continue."

Asked if she challenges any of those allegations, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday she would not comment about ongoing investigations.

"We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation, and the department continues to take action," Psaki said.

Psaki says officials have responded to the recommendations in the Office of the Inspector General report regarding the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

"Diplomatic Security has taken the further step of requesting an additional review by outside experienced law enforcement officers on top of the OIG inspection so that officers with law enforcement experience can make expert assessments about our current procedures," Psaki said.

Asked about allegations against a current U.S. ambassador, Psaki said she would not talk about specific cases.

"But I can say broadly that the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case, in any case, is preposterous. And we've put individuals behind bars for criminal behavior. There is record of that. Ambassadors would be no exception," Psaki said.

Psaki says the State Department "would never condone any undue influence on any report or investigation." She dismissed the memo's reported conclusion that contact between the secretary of state's security detail and prostitutes is "endemic," saying, "It's not at all."