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Lawmakers criticize the CIA’s handling of sexual misconduct, but provide few details

FILE - This April 13, 2016 file photo shows the Central Intelligence Agency seal at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia.  The CIA has failed to address allegations of sexual misconduct within its ranks, but has new tools at its disposal thanks to recent legislation aimed at improving transparency, a congressional committee concluded in a report released on Monday, April 22, 2024 released.
FILE – This April 13, 2016 file photo shows the Central Intelligence Agency seal at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The CIA has failed to address allegations of sexual misconduct within its ranks, but has new tools at its disposal thanks to recent legislation aimed at improving transparency, a congressional committee concluded in a report released on Monday, April 22, 2024 released.Carolyn Kaster/AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional committee on Monday criticized the CIA’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct within its ranks, saying victims have been discouraged from coming forward and were aware of “little to no accountability or punishment for the perpetrators of the assaults or intimidation.”

After interviewing more than two dozen whistleblowers behind closed doors and reviewing more than four thousand pages of documents, the House Intelligence Committee concluded that the CIA “failed to address allegations of sexual assault and harassment within its workforce in the professional and uniform manner justifying such sensitive allegations. .”

Although the eight-page report was scant in detail, the bipartisan committee commended the spy agency for its cooperation and pointed to new legislation that provides new reporting options for victims and aims to improve transparency.

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“We are absolutely committed to promoting a safe, respectful work environment for our employees and have taken important steps to ensure that, both by strengthening our focus on prevention and by strengthening the Agency’s approach to these issues when they arise occur,” the CIA said in a statement. statement to Associated Press.

The investigation followed a flood of complaints about sexual misconduct at the CIA and what several survivors described as a campaign to prevent them from speaking out by not guaranteeing their anonymity and saying it could harm national security.

An AP investigation last year found that the allegations ranged from lewd comments about sexual fantasies to unwanted touching and sexual assault. In one case, a senior manager allegedly showed up at a subordinate’s home at night with a gun and demanded sex.

Last year, a CIA officer trainee in Virginia was found guilty of charges accusing him of assaulting a colleague with a scarf and trying to kiss her in a stairwell at the agency’s headquarters. The victim in that case was fired earlier this year in what her lawyer called a brazen act of retaliation, an accusation the CIA denied.

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Still, the attack on the stairwell led to a reckoning of sorts within the agency. Some of the alleged incidents date back years and occurred while officers were on high-risk secret missions abroad.

Kevin Carroll, an attorney for the woman who was attacked in the stairwell, said the congressional report was “excellent.” He called on the agency to “increase cooperation with local law enforcement investigations and prosecutions of sex crimes committed by Agency agents.”

“The courageous, truth-telling whistleblower should be proud of all she has done to help other CIA women, unfortunately at the expense of her own career at the Agency,” said Carroll.

The congressional investigation began last spring, with staffers conducting interviews at discreet locations in the U.S. Capitol. The committee put together what a committee staffer described to the AP as a “comprehensive factual report,” showing a process that both the chairman and the ranking member found “pretty broken.”

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The staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to detail what happened behind the scenes of the investigation, said the majority and minority presented a united front throughout, especially during the meeting with CIA leadership about legislative solutions and the need for a ‘culture change’. at the spy agency.

The committee said it would continue to monitor the agency’s approach to sexual misconduct, adding that it is “committed to continuing to strengthen the law to address sexual assault and harassment at the CIA.”

Mustian reported from Natchitoches, Louisiana. AP writer Joshua Goodman contributed from Miami.

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Contact AP’s global investigative team at [email protected] or https://www.ap.org/tips/