State Department denies derailing prostitution probe

The State Department on Monday forcefully denied allegations that it quashed internal investigations involving the use of prostitutes and other misdeeds by agency employees.

“The notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in any case is preposterous," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The comments come after CBS reported on an internal inspector general (OIG) memo alledging that at least eight cases from the department's Diplomatic Security Service (DS) were “influenced, manipulated or simply called off” by higher-ups in the department. 

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The newly disclosed memo states that the Diplomatic Security Service in 2011 investigated reports that a U.S. ambassador in a sensitive post “routinely ditched” his security detail, possibly in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.” The ambassador was admonished by his superiors, CBS reported, but remained in his post.

The memo also highlights allegations that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail had an “endemic” habit of hiring prostitutes on trips abroad, that a State Department official in Beirut sexually assaulted foreign embassy guards and that an “underground drug ring” near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad supplied State Department contractors with drugs.

“Hindering such cases calls into question the integrity of the investigative process, can result in counter-intelligence vulnerabilities and can allow criminal behavior to continue,” states a draft OIG report obtained by CBS.

The memo follows a scathing February OIG report that concluded – after weighing the State Department's objections – that Diplomatic Security Service probes lack a “firewall” to prevent improper meddling.

“We have disputed this finding in a number of engagements with the OIG,” said Psaki. 

As a result of the February report, the OIG's Office on Investigations has launched an independent review. Psaki said the Diplomatic Security Service took the “extra precaution” after the February report was published 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.”

The Diplomatic Security Service was already on the hot seat over security lapses highlighted by last year's terror attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell resigned and two mid-level officials were put on administrative leave.

The February 2013 OIG report concluded that the Diplomatic Security Service (DS) “lacks a firewall to preclude the DS and Department of State hierarchies from exercising undue influence in particular cases.” 

The audit also found that the Diplomatic Security Service “does not have a comprehensive, up-to-date manual with approved policies and guidelines on how to conduct investigations.”

“Inspectors heard repeated complaints that two unresolved procedural issues, both beyond DS control, hinder investigators’ ability to pursue cases effectively,” the report said.

Psaki would not comment on any specific allegations.

“Depending on the facts, an investigation may result in administrative action or criminal charges, or it may be concluded without further action. Not all allegations are substantiated,” she told The Hill in an email. “To protect the integrity of investigations, as well as employees’ due process and privacy interests, the Department will not comment about specific allegations of misconduct, internal investigations or personnel matters.”

The OIG also had no comment on any of the specific allegations.

“OIG wants to emphasize the sensitive nature of OIG inspection information, particularly when it pertains to individuals and may be incomplete or contain unverified, raw data,” OIG spokesman Douglas Welty told The Hill. “Fairness and due process preclude OIG from further comment.”

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