'Little to no accountability' | House intelligence committee: CIA failed to properly handle sexual assault claims among its employees

House intelligence committee: CIA failed to properly handle sexual assault claims among its employees

An investigation from the House Intelligence Committee has found the CIA failed to properly manage claims of sexual assault and harassment from its employees.

The bipartisan committee report, released on Monday, says convoluted reporting procudures forced employees who reported incidents of sexual assault to follow a process of “confusion and disorder.”

In a series of eight findings, the committee reports that victims allegedly saw “little to no accountability or punishment for the perpetrators often because of an inadequate investigatory process.”

The intel committee found that this created a culture where employees were reluctant to report cases for fear they would not remain anonymous.

Staff members reportedly lacked the training to identify and report cases of sexual assault resulting in an “inconsistent approach.”

One office, the Threat Management Unit (TMU), was found to have “an unclear role and lacked the necessary training for sexual assault investigations.”

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The Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office were also found to lack the necessary resources, authority, and internal structures to provide an effective response to employee complaints of sexual harassment.

“Over the course of the investigation, the Committee discovered that CIA failed to handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment within its workforce in the professional and uniform manner that such sensitive allegations warrant,” the report stated.

A CIA spokesperson did not refute the findings and instead emphasized the agency has taken steps to improve its process for handling reports of sexual assault. “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,” a spokesperson explained in a statement to The Associated Press.

The investigation was established in January 2023 after an employee approached the committee, reporting she had been sexually assaulted and harassed.

Subsequently, the committee interviewed a total of 26 whistleblowers who reportedly “shared their own personal experiences of sexual assault and sexual harassment while employed by CIA.”

Over 4,000 pages of records produced by the CIA were also reviewed.

The employee who sparked the investigation by reporting she was sexually assaulted in a stairwell in the agency’s offices was terminated and has since claimed it was unlawful retaliation – the CIA denied this accusation. The colleague who committed the assault was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery.

Following the report’s findings, lawmakers have enacted legislation designed to fix the issues with the CIA’s response to allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

These included creating uniform policies and training, establishing a ‘Victim and Whistleblower Counsel’ which will report directly to the CIA’s COO, setting up a standard process for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual assault and sex-related offenses, and consolidating all practices into one office.

The committee credits the CIA as being “eager” to work with them to “meaningfully address these shortcomings.”

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