Richmond Times-Dispatch

FBI’s senior ranks shaken by reports of misconduct

Probe identifies at least six cases of sexual impropriet­y alleged in past five years

- BY JIM MUSTIAN

WASHINGTON— An assistant FBI director retired after he was accused of drunkenly groping a female subordinat­e in a stairwell. Another senior FBI official left after he was found to have sexually harassed eight employees.

Yet another high-ranking FBI agent retired after he was accused of blackmaili­ng a young employee into sexual encounters.

An Associated Press investigat­ion has identified at least six sexual misconduct allegation­s involving senior FBI officials over the past five years, including two new claims brought this week by women who say they were sexually assaulted by ranking agents.

Each of the accused FBI officials appears to have avoided discipline, the AP found, and several were quietly transferre­d or retired, keeping their full pensions and benefits even when probes substantia­ted the sexual misconduct claims against them.

Beyond that, federal law enforcemen­t officials are afforded anonymity even after the disciplina­ry process runs its course, allowing them to land on their feet in the private

sector or even remain in law enforcemen­t.

“They’re sweeping it under the rug,” said a former FBI analyst who alleges in a new federal lawsuit that a supervisor­y special agent licked her face and groped her at a colleague’s farewell party in 2017. She ended up leaving the FBI and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“As the premier law enforcemen­t organizati­on that the FBI holds itself out to be, it’s very dishearten­ing when they allow people they know are criminals to retire and pursue careers in law enforcemen­t-related fields,” said the woman, who asked to be identified in this story only by her first name, Becky.

The AP’s count does not include the growing number of high-level FBI supervisor­s who have failed to report romantic relationsh­ips with subordinat­es in recent years — a pattern that has alarmed investigat­ors with the Office of Inspector General and raised questions about bureau policy.

The recurring sexual misconduct has drawn the attention of Congress and advocacy groups, which have called for whistleblo­wer protection­s for rank-and-file FBI employees and for an outside entity to review the bureau’s disciplina­ry cases.

In a statement, the FBI said it “maintains a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment” and that claims against supervisor­s have resulted in them being removed from their positions while cases are investigat­ed and adjudicate­d.

It added that severe cases can result in criminal charges and that the FBI’s internal disciplina­ry process assesses, among other factors, “the credibilit­y of the allegation­s, the severity of the conduct,

and the rank and position of the individual­s involved.”

The latest claims come months after a 17th woman joined a federal lawsuit alleging systemic sexual harassment at the FBI’s training academy in Quantico, Va. That class-action case claims male FBI instructor­s made “sexually charged” comments about women needing to “take their birth control to control their moods,” inviting women trainees over to their homes and openly disparagin­g them.

Confronted with a sexual assault allegation at a veterans hospital, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie repeatedly sought to discredit the congressio­nal aide who made the complaint and his staff worked to spread negative informatio­n about her while ignoring known problems of harassment at the facility, according to an investigat­ive report released Thursday.

The 47-page report by the VA’s internal watchdog paints a portrait of a department led by senior officials who were indifferen­t, if not hostile, to the issues at the department’s flagship medical center in the nation’s capital. It found that Wilkie acted

unprofessi­onally if not unethicall­y, in the case of Navy veteran Andrea Goldstein, a policy adviser to Democratic Rep. Mark Takano of California, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Associated Press policy is not to name victims or possible victims of sexual assault. Goldstein agreed to be publicly identified.

Wilkie and other senior officials declined to fully cooperate with the investigat­ion. For that reason, VA Inspector General Michael Missal said he could not conclude whether Wilkie had acted illegally, allegedly by personally digging into the woman’s past and working with a Republican congressma­n to dismiss her as a repeat complainer.

Wilkie said the allegation­s are false. “After nearly a year of investigat­ion, interviews with 65 people and analysis of nearly 1.5 million documents, VA’s inspector general cannot substantia­te that I sought to investigat­e or asked others to investigat­e the veteran,” Wilkie said.

Goldstein said the report confirmed that Wilkie’s response “was not to take ownership and ensure accountabi­lity, but to investigat­e me and attempt to impugn my character.”

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? A former FBI analyst, who asked to be identified only as Becky, alleges in a newfederal lawsuit that an FBI supervisor­y special agent licked her face and groped her at a colleague’s farewell party in 2017. She ended up leaving the FBI and has been diagnosedw­ith post- traumatic stress disorder.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS A former FBI analyst, who asked to be identified only as Becky, alleges in a newfederal lawsuit that an FBI supervisor­y special agent licked her face and groped her at a colleague’s farewell party in 2017. She ended up leaving the FBI and has been diagnosedw­ith post- traumatic stress disorder.

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