State Department may have covered up sex and drug scandals, report says

The State Department is under fire after an internal memo has surfaced that claims investigations into employee misbehavior were called off or manipulated.

By , Staff writer

The US State Department may have covered up illegal and inappropriate behavior concerning sex and drugs, according to a report by CBS News citing a draft memo from the department’s inspector general’s office.

An internal memo obtained by John Miller of CBS News said there were eight examples where an investigation of misconduct was influenced, manipulated, or called off, the network reported on the "CBS This Morning” broadcast.

Misconduct cited in the memo, the network said, included allegations that a State Department security official engaged in sexual assaults on foreign nationals hired in Beirut, that members of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s security detail engaged prostitutes while on official trips abroad, and that an underground drug ring operated in near the US embassy in Baghdad and provided State Department contractors with drugs.

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In its report, CBS quoted the State Department as saying it would “not comment about specific allegations of misconduct, internal investigations, or personnel matters. Not all allegations are substantiated.” The statement continued: “It goes without saying that the Department does not condone interference with investigations by any of its employees.”   

The charges come as the department continues to be under fire from congressional Republicans concerning the drafting of talking points about a September 2012 attack on a US diplomatic post in Benhgazi, Libya, that claimed the life of four people, including the American ambassador. Critics believe the talking points, delivered on Sunday talk shows by UN Ambassador Susan Rice, were modified for political reasons.

The conservative website Human Events was quick to link the CBS report and the Benghazi controversy. "The spirit of Benghazi went far beyond the lies and obfuscations pumped out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top people, according CBS News, which has 'uncovered documents that show the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks,' " the site said.

Mr. Miller, who previously was an assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, interviewed Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department’s inspector general’s office. Ms. Fedenisn, who worked in the State Department for 26 years, said the IG uncovered various cases of wrong doing “some of which never became cases.” She added, “we were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went was very disturbing.”

In one case CBS cited, State Department investigators from the Diplomatic Security Service were told to stop investigating the behavior of a US ambassador who was suspected of meeting with prostitutes in a public park. Fedenisn said it was likely that hostile intelligence services were aware of such alleged activities and that they presented “a serious risk to the United States government.” The ambassador was summoned to Washington but was allowed to return to his post.  

CBS said that two hours after contacting the State Department about Fedenisn’s charges that “investigators from the State Department’s Inspector General showed up at her door.”

That triggered this response from Human Events. “The State Department might have been lax about investigating and exposing these nefarious activities, but it springs into action with the speed and ferocity of a panther when it’s time to pounce on a whistleblower.”

It is not clear how much political impact the CBS report will have. The story of the alleged State Department misdeeds will have to compete with wall-to-wall coverage of recently revealed government surveillance programs.   

“Our current attention span makes it unlikely that the State Department's alleged misdeeds will be front page news, but the story certainly has plenty of rather attention-grabbing details,” Slate observed. “Perhaps the most troubling part of the report isn't the alleged misconduct itself but the possibility of the subsequent attempts to keep it under wraps.”

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