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      Death Threats, Child Porn, and War Crimes: Inside CIA Investigations of Its Own Employees

      Death Threats, Child Porn, and War Crimes: Inside CIA Investigations of Its Own Employees Death Threats, Child Porn, and War Crimes: Inside CIA Investigations of Its Own Employees Death Threats, Child Porn, and War Crimes: Inside CIA Investigations of Its Own Employees
      CIA director John Brennan. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

      Primary Sources

      Death Threats, Child Porn, and War Crimes: Inside CIA Investigations of Its Own Employees

      By Jason Leopold

      Like all federal government agencies, the CIA has an Office of Inspector General (OIG). It investigates CIA personnel who are accused of criminal wrongdoing and suspected of violating agency policies.

      Unlike most other federal agencies, however, the CIA makes certain that the details of its OIG investigations are shrouded in secrecy. Reports prepared by the OIG about its investigations are classified — even the titles of the reports are a secret. But years of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) work has allowed VICE News to publish several reports about high-profile investigations undertaken by the OIG, including one about how the agency helped produce the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty. Now another release of OIG documents [pdf at the end of this story] has revealed what some of the OIG's other investigations entailed.

      Between January 2013 and May 2014, the OIG completed 111 investigations of alleged crimes, such as the killing of an animal on federal property, possession of child pornography, fraud, embezzlement, and domestic violence. The CIA is still processing VICE News's FOIA request for a list of investigations the OIG completed between May 2014 and the present.

      The investigations were overseen by David Buckley, who served as the CIA's inspector general for more than four years. He resigned earlier this year after he issued a scathing report about how a handful of CIA employees wrongfully infiltrated the computers used by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers who were probing the agency's torture program. CIA director John Brennan said that while Buckley served as inspector general he "demonstrated independence, integrity, and sound judgment in promoting efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability."

      About 80 pages of internal CIA documents pertaining to more than a dozen OIG investigations show that CIA employees escaped charges after the cases were referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which declined to prosecute the alleged offenses. The CIA could not provide VICE News with a breakdown of how many of the 111 cases the OIG investigated were referred to DOJ for prosecution, nor could DOJ provide us with the number of referrals it received that the department declined to pursue.

      Yet the documents also show that when the CIA dealt with some of the more grave offenses, employees were fired and stripped of their security clearances. The OIG's office receives anonymous tips, confidential disclosures, complaints from employees and the public, referrals from CIA officials, and other actions that inform its decision about whether to launch an investigation.

      "When the Office of Inspector General launches an investigation, it is done in accordance with the quality standards outlined by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency," said CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani. "According to those guidelines, each complaint, regardless of its origin, must be evaluated for possible investigation."

      In one of the cases the OIG looked into, according to a heavily redacted memorandum, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service notified the CIA about a referral it received regarding an alleged war crime committed by a CIA officer working for the National Clandestine Service that appears to have resulted in a person's death.

      The OIG referred the matter to DOJ's Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section for prosecution on June 24, 2010. Two years later, on August 3, 2012, the DOJ notified the OIG that it had declined to prosecute the alleged crime.

      The OIG "continued an administrative investigation to determine if [CIA] policies were violated regarding the alleged incidents," the OIG's case closing document said, which ultimately exonerated the officer on November 14, 2013. "The investigation by OIG did not uncover any evidence to substantiate the [redacted] allegations that [redacted] or any other Agency staff or contractor employee, violated the rules of engagement or otherwise unlawfully killed anyone during the assault operations examined during the course of this investigation."

      DOJ spokesman Peter Carr told VICE News that "every charging decision" made by the Department is based strictly on the Principles of Federal Prosecution, which takes into consideration a number of factors when a US Attorney decides whether to proceed or decline to prosecute a case.

      "The attorney for the government should commence or recommend Federal prosecution if he/she believes that the person's conduct constitutes a Federal offense and that the admissible evidence will probably be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction, unless, in his/her judgment, prosecution should be declined because: No substantial Federal interest would be served by prosecution; The person is subject to effective prosecution in another jurisdiction; or There exists an adequate non-criminal alternative to prosecution," the Principles state.

      The discovery was made during a separate investigation into claims the contractor was in possession of child pornography. The contractor pleaded guilty to a crime (the nature of which was redacted), received a sentence (also redacted), and registered as a sex offender.

      In another case involving a CIA National Clandestine Service employee, the OIG investigated claims that the employee had engaged in human trafficking and had been mistreating domestic workers "by not paying adequate wages, forcing long work hours, and making threats to have family members… killed."

      "Additionally, the [redacted] alleged that [the CIA employee and the employee's spouse] abused illegal drugs and also abused their children," states an April 25, 2014 memo from the CIA's Assistant Inspector General for Investigations that was sent to top officials at the National Clandestine Service. The OIG and the agency's Office of Medical Services probed the child abuse claims but could not substantiate the allegations. A redacted part of the memo contains an explanation about the investigation and notes that "in the absence of additional leads or information, the alleged child abuse investigation is closed."

      The OIG did, however, corroborate that the CIA employee admitted paying the domestic workers $470 per month instead of the required $1,000 "per terms of the contract." The CIA employee denied threatening to kill the employees' family members. The case was referred to the Justice Department for prosecution, "which declined prosecution pertaining to the alleged human trafficking allegations."

      The DOJ also declined to prosecute a case of misconduct involving a polygraph examiner who admitted to the OIG of "repeatedly using techniques" that violated CIA policies and guidelines and disqualified applicants from employment with the agency. The polygraph examiner said use of the unauthorized techniques resulted in a "high closure rate," which the polygraph examiner's supervisors "viewed as a positive" and allowed the examiner to "stand out from the rest of the polygraph examiners."

      The Justice Department explained that instead of pursuing a prosecution, it opted to have the CIA deal with the matter administratively. The agency fired the polygraph examiner and revoked the person's security clearance, according to the OIG's April 2014 case report.

      The DOJ also declined to prosecute a case in lieu of CIA administrative action involving a CIA Special Activities Staff employee who "misused government systems by conducting unauthorized, non-official searches on sensitive Agency databases." The employee was warned "on more than one occasion to cease [the] behavior but [the employee] continued to conduct unauthorized searches."

      A CIA personnel evaluation review board recommended the employee be stripped of his or her security clearance and fired. The employee was allowed to resign.

      One of the cases that did result in a prosecution involved a former CIA contractor who was accused in October 2012 of disclosing classified information. The OIG discovered the breach when it obtained a notification from the CIA's Office of Security that the contractor's hard drive contained top-secret documents.

      "Numerous technical documents related to Agency systems were found on [redacted] laptop," the OIG investigation documents said.

      The discovery was made during a separate investigation into claims the contractor was in possession of child pornography. The CIA's Counterintelligence Center and the FBI conducted a joint investigation. The OIG documents said the contractor pleaded guilty to a crime (the nature of which was redacted), received a sentence (also redacted), and registered as a sex offender.

      Another case the DOJ decided to prosecute involved an allegation involving the counterfeiting of CIA credentials in which the offender pleaded guilty to two counts of being in possession of false badges. The person was sentenced to six months of probation, and received a $300 fine and 25 hours of community service.

      In March 2013, the OIG investigated an odd case involving the alleged misuse of a CIA credential by a former agency officer. The OIG received a notification from the Counterintelligence Center after that office was contacted "via Lotus note" by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and told that the agencies intercepted $185,070 in cash that was being sent through Federal Express from South Carolina to California.

      HSI was attempting to determine if the cash was used for an illegal activity. The recipient of the cash was a former CIA officer who was the subject of a separate OIG investigation that resulted in the employee being fired from the CIA in November 2012 for "misuse of a government vehicle, voucher fraud, and accepting gifts from a contractor." (DOJ declined to prosecute that incident as well).

      HSI told the OIG "that it intercepted, and confiscated, the shipment of cash totaling $185,070 at Indianapolis International Airport, where HSI operates a counterdrug operation, after a specially trained dog sniffed the odor of narcotics on the package containing the cash," the OIG's report says.

      Although the OIG's report into the matter is redacted, it appears that the $185,070 sent to the CIA officer was supposed to be used for a company, according to the shipper. In an attempt to get the money back, the former CIA officer's attorney sent HSI a scanned copy of the former officer's badge and credential and a CIA earnings and leave statement. But HSI said, in accordance with its policies, the cash would be forfeited unless the former CIA employee petitioned the court. It's unclear whether the former officer retrieved the money. The OIG's concern in the case was only that the former officer had continued to use his badge and credential to influence the outcome of the case.

      Other investigations launched by the OIG include claims that a "highly placed US official" leaked classified information to the [redacted] Army; whistleblower retaliation; the sale of night vision goggles on eBay; the use of government computers to order steroids (which turned out to be vitamin supplements and amino acids); and the alleged abuse of a detainee by CIA officers in which the accuser later "clarified, corrected, or recanted all of [his/her] prior admissions related to [his/her] knowledge of physical abuse of detainees."

      Follow Jason Leopold on Twitter: @JasonLeopold

      Topics: cia inspector general, david buckley, war crimes, foia, freedom of information act, detainee abuse, department of justice, national clandestine service, ebay, night vision goggles, steroids, department of homeland security, office of the inspector general, primary sources, primary sources: the vice news foia blog, united states, americas, defense & security

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