“CBS News‘ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, [dated October 2012], several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”
The memo also reveals details about an “underground drug ring” was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.
Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department’s internal watchdog agency, the Inspector General, told Miller, “We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases, some of which never became cases.”
In such cases, DSS agents told the Inspector General’s investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that Fedenisn says is “very” upsetting.
“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,” she said.
In one specific and striking cover-up, State Department agents told the Inspector General they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.
The State Department Inspector General’s memo refers to the 2011 investigation into an ambassador who “routinely ditched … his protective security detail” and inspectors suspect this was in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”
Sources told CBS News that after the allegations surfaced, the ambassador was called to Washington, D.C. to meet with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, but was permitted to return to his post.
Fedenisn says “hostile intelligence services” allow such behavior to continue. “I would be very surprised if some of those entities were not aware of the activities,” she said. “So yes, it presents a serious risk to the United States government.”
A draft of the Inspector General’s report on the performance of the DSS, obtained by CBS News, states, “Hindering such cases calls into question the integrity of the investigative process, can result in counterintelligence vulnerabilities and can allow criminal behavior to continue.” (Read more: CBS News, 6/10/2013)
The following day, Foreign Policy writes, “In a fast-developing story, U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman has been named as the diplomat accused of soliciting “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to State Department documents obtained by NBC News. Gutman denied the allegations, in a statement to The Cable and other outlets.
“I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating,” he said. “At no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity.” (Read more: Foreign Policy, 6/11/2013)
On June 17, 2013, Foreign Policy writes, “The State Department investigator who accused colleagues last week of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, and having sex with minors says that Foggy Bottom is now engaged in an “intimidation” campaign to stop her.
Last week’s leaks by Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator, shined a light on alleged wrongdoing by U.S. officials around the globe. But her attorney Cary Schulman tells The Cable that Fedenisn has paid a steep price: “They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself.”
Fedenisn’s life changed dramatically last Monday after she handed over documents and statements to CBS News alleging that senior State Department officials “influenced, manipulated, or simply called off” several investigations into misconduct. The suppression of investigations was noted in an early draft of an Inspector General report, but softened in the final version.
Erich Hart, general counsel to the Inspector General, did not reply to a request for comment. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week that “we hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly.” She also announced that the department would request additional review by outside law enforcement officers on OIG inspection processes.” (Read more: Foreign Policy, 6/17/2013)
The State Department is responding to claims that officials may have covered up alleged illegal and inappropriate behavior by department personnel, while an ambassador is accused of “routinely” soliciting sexual favors. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports. (Today, 6/11/2013)