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Memo Alleges Undue State Dept. Influence Over Investigations

CBS News has obtained what it says is a memo written by the State Department's investigative arm indicating that some of its investigations into allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior of department employees were "influenced, manipulated, or simply called off."

CBS News, which is the only news organization to report on the memo, talked to Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator for the State Department Inspector General who CBS News now calls a whistleblower. She said investigators expect some influence but that "the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing."

CBS News reports that the memo cites eight specific examples where an investigation was influenced. They report:

"Among them: allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut 'engaged in sexual assaults' on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail 'engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries' — a problem the report says was 'endemic.'

"The memo also reveals details about an 'underground drug ring' ... operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs."

In another case, the memo cites an investigation into an ambassador in a "sensitive diplomatic post" who would routinely ditch his security detail to engage in what investigators suspected was "patronizing prostitutes in a public park."

When the issue was brought up, the ambassador was recalled to Washington but was allowed to return to his post after a conversation with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, according to the memo.

NPR has not independently verified the authenticity of that memo and it's important to keep in mind that the IG was investigating allegations that ultimately may have been deemed to have no basis.

The allegations will surely be addressed during the State Department's daily press briefing later this afternoon. We'll listen and update this post. The State Department did tell CBS News that they will "not comment about specific allegations of misconduct, internal investigations or personnel matters. Not all allegations are substantiated. It goes without saying that the Department does not condone interference with investigations by any of its employees."

Update at 4:04 p.m. ET. The Notion Is 'Preposterous':

During the daily press briefing at the State Department, spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki defended the State Department's handling of these investigations.

"The notion that we would not pursue criminal misconduct in any case is preposterous," Psaki said. "We've put individuals behind bars for criminal behavior."

Psaki would not comment on any of the individual cases brought forward by the memo, but she said that all of them are being investigated or have been investigated.

Psaki also said that Diplomatic Security asked the Office of the Inspector General to bring in independent investigators to look into allegations that the firewall between the State Department and its investigative arm had been breached.

Psaki said that the State Department disputes that notion.

As for the allegations that contact between the security detail of the Secretary of State and prostitutes is "endemic," Psaki said that it "was not endemic."

"It is not at all," she said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.