Lawmakers criticize CIA's handling of sexual misconduct but offer few specifics

A congressional committee is criticizing the CIA’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations in its ranks, saying victims have been deterred from coming forward and were aware of “little to no accountability or punishment for the perpetrators of the assaults.”

Jim Mustian,Farnoush Amiri
Monday 22 April 2024 21:51 BST
CIA Sexual Misconduct
CIA Sexual Misconduct (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

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A congressional committee Monday criticized the CIA's handling of sexual misconduct allegations in its ranks, saying victims have been deterred from coming forward and were aware of “little to no accountability or punishment for the perpetrators of the assaults or harassment.”

After interviewing more than two dozen whistleblowers behind closed doors and reviewing more than 4,000 pages of records, the House Intelligence Committee concluded the CIA “failed to handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment within its workforce in the professional and uniform manner that such sensitive allegations warrant.”

Though the eight-page report was short on specifics, the bipartisan committee credited the spy agency for its cooperation and pointed to new legislation that provides new reporting options to victims and aims to improve transparency.

“We are absolutely committed to fostering a safe, respectful workplace environment for our employees and have taken significant steps to ensure that, both by bolstering our focus on prevention and strengthening the Agency’s handling of these issues when they arise,” the CIA said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The investigation followed a flood of sexual misconduct complaints at CIA and what several survivors described as a campaign to keep them from speaking out by failing to ensure their anonymity and saying it could harm national security.

An AP investigation last year found the accusations ranged from lewd remarks about sexual fantasies to unwanted touching and sexual assaults. In one case, a senior manager allegedly showed up at a subordinate’s house at night with a firearm and demanded sex.

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

Still, the stairwell assault prompted a reckoning of sorts within the agency. Some of the alleged incidents went back years and took place as officers were on risky covert missions overseas.

The congressional inquiry began last spring, with staffers conducting interviews in discreet locations in the U.S. Capitol. The committee pieced together what one committee staffer described to the AP as an “extensive factual record,” which revealed a process that both the chairman and ranking member concluded was “pretty broken."

The staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail what happened behind the scenes in the probe, said the majority and minority were a united front throughout, particularly when meeting with CIA leadership about legislative solutions and the need for a “culture change” at the spy agency.

The committee said it would continue monitoring the agency's handling of sexual misconduct, adding it's “committed to continuing to strengthen the law to address sexual assault and harassment at CIA.”


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


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