The Office of the Inspector General at the State Department released a report revealing “an appearance of undue influence and favoritism by Department management” in three out of eight internal investigations reviewed.
“The appearance of undue influence and favoritism is problematic because it risks undermining confidence in the integrity of the Department and its leaders,” the OIG report said.
“In May 2011, [Bureau of Diplomatic Security] was alerted to suspicions by the security staff at a U.S. embassy that the U.S. Ambassador solicited a prostitute in a public park near the embassy. DS assigned an agent from its internal investigations unit to conduct a preliminary inquiry. However, 2 days later, the agent was directed to stop further inquiry because of a decision by senior Department officials to treat the matter as a ‘management issue.’ The Ambassador was recalled to Washington and, in June 2011, met with the Under Secretary of State for Management and the then Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Secretary of State. At the meeting, the Ambassador denied the allegations and was then permitted to return to post. The Department took no further action affecting the Ambassador.”
The OIG found that not enough evidence was collected to confirm or refute the allegation of misconduct, including no interview of the ambassador by DS.
The second case “concerned a DS Regional Security Officer (RSO) posted overseas, who, in 2011, allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment.”
“At the time the investigation began, the RSO already had a long history of similar misconduct allegations dating back 10 years at seven other posts where he worked,” and the OIG found that “notwithstanding the serious nature of the alleged misconduct, the Department never attempted to remove the RSO from Department work environments where the RSO could potentially harm other employees.”
The third case “involved the unauthorized release in mid-2012 of internal Department communications from 2008 concerning an individual who was nominated in early-2012 to serve as a U.S. Ambassador,” a nominee whose name was then withdrawn.
“OIG did find that the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of DS had delayed for 4 months, without adequate justification, DS’s interview of the nominee, and that delay brought the investigation to a temporary standstill.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the “unusual role played by State Department top management handling these internal investigations of potential criminal acts is disturbing” and he’s “pleased” that new Inspector General Steve Linick “took it upon himself to reexamine this issue.”
“Today’s report demonstrates why having a permanent Inspector General is critical to overseeing government operations. Unfortunately, the State Department lacked this accountability during the first five years of this Administration. With no top cop on the beat for nearly 2,000 days, I’m not surprised that management went off the rails in this case,” Royce said.
“Luckily that’s not the case today. I’m proud of the role that the Committee played – on a bipartisan basis – to get a permanent Inspector General in place to oversee the State Department’s operations.”