After it came to light that the Central Intelligence Agency was mishandling sexual assault cases filed by female employees, the House Intelligence Committee of Congress initiated an investigation to find out the truth. Four people who know about the issue disclosed the fact.
Over the years, female employees have made several allegations about being sexually assaulted by male colleagues. But according to reports, it appears the agency hasn't done much.
The Congress learned about this in January when a woman approached to tell them that the agency didn't take any action against the man who attacked her and tried to kiss her forcibly even though she filed a complaint against him with law enforcement.
Since then, several women have appeared before the committee to inform them that CIA was discouraging female employees from complaining regarding sexual assault against their male colleagues. Kevin Carroll, an attorney representing the first complainant who spoke with the committee, said.
The complaints have led the committee to ask Bill Burns, the CIA director, via letter requesting the agency's assistance to investigate the matters. The agency director replied within twenty-four hours and promised full support.
The committee's ranking member Rep Jim Himes (D-Conn), and chair Rep Mike Turner (R-Ohio), both issued a statement that said, "Sexual assault is a heinous crime. Our committee is committed to addressing this matter and protecting those who are serving their country. We have been in contact with Director Burns, and he is fully committed to working with us on this issue."
Kevin Carroll, the attorney, said that his client mentioned that at least 54 CIA female employees have told that male colleagues have misbehaved or assaulted them in the last decade, but the cases were mishandled.
According to Carroll and his client, the victim went to a number of the agency’s offices, but they didn't take any action. Instead, the agency's security office officials told her that if the victim went ahead and filed a complaint with law enforcement, the agency wouldn't protect her from the alleged attacker. The officials also threatened that going ahead with the issue would jeopardize her job at the CIA.
The attorney also said that the agency threatened the victims approaching the Congress of repercussions if they talked about the issue.
However, a senior CIA official rejected the claim that the agency had threatened women or attempted to prevent them from appearing before Congress and telling them of the assaults. The exact words were, "This idea that there's some threatening (of) officers who want to talk to HPSCI, that's not true." "We haven't threatened or blocked anybody," the official added.
CIA spokesperson Tammy Kupperman when asked for a comment said that the agency will not tolerate any sort of sexual harassment or assault.
Things have sped up since the investigation started, and the local county law enforcement is pursuing the matter of the first complainant but as a misdemeanor. Carroll said that if the federal law agency had taken up the case, the charge would be felony sex assault. However, he said they're happy that local law enforcement is assisting the case.
The investigation has also led the CIA to take new steps to tackle sexual assault. For instance, the agency is hiring Taleeta Jackson to lead the agency's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
She is a psychologist and an expert in sexual assault prevention. She has plenty of experience in this matter, as she was in charge of the 70 installations of the U.S. Navy's program on sexual assault prevention.
In a statement, Bill Burns, the CIA Director, said, "I am pleased that Dr. Jackson has joined our team and will bring her extensive experience to this crucial new role." He also mentioned that he and other senior CIA officials met with many affected officers to listen to their grievances and obtain suggestions for them to improve the agency.
A senior CIA official said that besides the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, the CIA is also forming an internal task force to find methods to better its organizational system and procedures regarding employees' sexual assault or harassment reports. The official also added that the current processes were not working, so there was a need for a change.
The task force is also planning to find fresh ideas to train managers so that they can manage allegations of sexual assault correctly. The official also said that managers aren't well-trained and don't know many important things, so problems arise when they handle the issue.
The agency also accepted that it didn't always take the proper disciplinary action. So, it is setting up a new board to make sure that everyone, irrespective of rank, is disciplined suitably according to the degree of the offense.
Though there have been many complaints of sexual assault, few officers were charged and punished. So, it's hoped that the investigation by Congress and the changes will lead the agency to handle future sexual assault complaints better and punish any officer if found guilty.