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Leak alleges State Department coverups ranging from prostitution to drug trafficking

Published time: June 10, 2013 23:42
AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm

AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm

Documents obtained from an internal watchdog for the US State Department have revealed the potential coverup of alleged illegal behavior ranging from sexual assaults to an underground drug ring.

According to CBS News, which first reported on the information obtained from a memo produced by the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), that agency has followed leads on a number of cases that implicate the State Department in potentially damaging and illegal situations.

Aurelia Fedenisn, a former internal investigator, told CBS News that DDS agents were often told to go easy with investigations of high-ranking members of the State Department – a working environment that only allowed criminal behavior to continue, she says.

The DSS memo contains information on at least eight examples of improprieties, like claims that a State Department official in Beirut, Lebanon had “engaged in sexual assaults” of foreign nationals employed as embassy guards. The memo further included information that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail had “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries,” characterizing the issue as “endemic.”

It is possible that State Department staff were trying to avoid unwanted publicity, such as that generated by a prostitution scandal in Colombia which involved 11 Secret Service agents and five military servicemen in 2012. That controversy partly derailed US participation in that year’s Summit of the Americas.

Fedenisn was part of the team that drafted a whistleblower report detailing another coverup, this one involving a US ambassador suspected of soliciting prostitutes at a public park. According to that report the high-ranking official was allowed to return to his post despite having “ditched” his protective security detail in order to engage with the sex workers.

The undersecretary of state for management, Patrick Kennedy, reportedly interviewed that ambassador, who shortly thereafter returned to his post without being disciplined.

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told Foreign Policy Magazine that Kennedy is "not a central player in this at all."

“Depending on the facts, an investigation may result in administrative action or criminal charges, or it may be concluded without further action," added Jen Psaki, a colleague of Ventrell.

The report indicates that State Department agents claim they were told to stop investigating certain cases, for example that of the ambassador who had solicited sex workers. CBS News also reports that two hours after the whistleblower report surfaced, investigators from the State Department’s Inspector General showed up at Fedenisn’s residence.

According to a draft of a report prepared for the Inspector General's office, the "hindering" of investigations into misconduct "calls into question the integrity of the investigative process” and “can result in counterintelligence vulnerabilities.” That line was later removed from the final version of the report, Fedenisn says, after a high-ranking security official told her that "this is going to kill us."