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

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April 23, 2024
By The Associated Press

This April 13, 2016 file photo shows the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at its headquarters in Langley, Va. The CIA has failed to handle allegations of sexual misconduct within its ranks but has new tools at its disposal thanks to recent legislation intended to improve transparency, a congressional committee concluded in a report released Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

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.

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

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

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.”

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