LANGLEY, VA- A bombshell release of a number of declassified CIA inspector general reports show staffers committed sex crimes involving children in which federal prosecutors repeatedly refused to hold agency personnel accountable, according to BuzzFeed News.
According to the declassified documents, the CIA has secretly gathered credible evidence over the past 14 years that at least 10 agency employees and contractors committed sex crimes involving children.
More disturbing, out of all those cases, prosecutors only submitted one for criminal prosecution. The rest were sent back to the agency to be handled administratively, which in essence means the suspected abusers were only looking at possible loss of employment or revoking of security clearances.
The apparent dismissiveness of these crimes at the CIA are in stark contrast to how sex crimes involving children were handled by other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). According to agency insiders, the CIA is hesitant to prosecute staff members over concerns the cases might reveal state secrets.
BuzzFeed obtained the reports as a result of lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the outlet reported.
In one case, a CIA employee had sexual contact with two young girls, one two and the other six-years-old. Instead of prosecution, he was merely fired. A second incident involved an employee who purchased three sexually explicit videos of young females, filmed by their mothers, which led to his resignation.
Then a third employee told investigators he had viewed up to 1,400 sexually abusive images of children while deployed on agency assignments. In another case, records do not indicate what action, if any the CIA took against a contractor who was caught in an FBI sting whereby he arranged for sex with an underage minor other than having his contract revoked.
Out of the documents reviewed by BuzzFeed, only one suspect was criminally charged. That case involved an employee who was charged with child sex crimes; however the employee was also being investigated for mishandling classified material.
BuzzFeed reached out to the CIA with a number of questions over the apparent malfeasance in prosecuting crimes involving children, however a spokesperson only said that the agency “takes all allegations of possible criminal misconduct committed by personnel seriously.”
The outlet also reached out to the Eastern District of Virginia, which received a number of criminal referrals, however they too refused to answer detailed questions, only saying the district “takes seriously its responsibility to hold accountable federal government employees who violate federal law within our jurisdiction.”
BuzzFeed spoke to four former officials who are familiar with how such internal investigations work at intelligence agencies who noted there are a number of reasons why prosecutors might avoid criminal prosecutions.
One in particular, familiar specifically with the inner workings of the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General told BuzzFeed the agency was likely concerned a criminal case would result in loss of control of sensitive information.
The official reviewed the declassified reports said a likely concern of CIA lawyers would be, “We can’t have these people testify, they may inadvertently be forced to disclose sources and methods.”
The official said such child sexual abuse crimes are nothing new and in fact go back decades and there is a need to protect “sensitive and classified equities,” however said there is definitely a need to prosecute “crimes of a certain class whether it’s an intelligence agency or not,” saying the agency needs to find a way “to prosecute these people.”
The CIA isn’t the only federal agency which seems to have a problem involving sexual abuse of children. BuzzFeed noted that sex crimes involving children have been found at other agencies which handle, sensitive information, including the Department of Defense.
In a November 2009 report, it was found that dozens of Pentagon staff members and contractors had images of child sexual abuse on computers or phones.
Moreover in 2014, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community discovered two officials from the National Reconnaissance Office, which oversees America’s spy satellite program, admitted viewing images of child sexual abuse while undergoing polygraph examinations.
In 2016, Daniel Payne, a top Pentagon security official told of an “unbelievable” amount of child pornography being stored on workers’ computers.
BuzzFeed has been pursuing access to the now-declassified reports for some ten years or so, with some thirteen public records requests and three separate Freedom of Information lawsuits finally resulting in what they call an “unprecedented release of reports by the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General.
According to BuzzFeed, the requests date back to 2012 and sought access to investigations closed by the OIG which acts independently from the agency in order to examine misconduct by both employees and contractors.
The CIA spent much of those ten years kicking the can down the road, BuzzFeed said, initially merely ignoring the requests, then claiming it would take years to provide the requested documents.
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The outlet filed lawsuits in 2014, 2015 and 2020 which resulted in the CIA agreeing to enter negotiations about which documents they would release. The agency used the pandemic as an excuse to delay the process, which was for about one year, but the agency started releasing the documents in March of this year and it is expected the final set will be released this month.
The documents consist of over 3,000 pages, detailing investigations of all types, many of which are minor in nature. Some of the documents have also been previously been the subject of news reports, such as the agency’s involvement in the production of the movie Zero Dark Thirty, the torture of prisoners held at “black site” prisons, and a former operation in Peru which led to the death of missionaries.
It is however the sexual abuse cases which drew the attention of BuzzFeed, where a significant pattern of sexual abuse cases were uncovered by internal CIA investigations, however federal prosecutors declined to pursue charges.
They noted the documents had been heavily redacted, which is typical for intelligence documents, with names of accused employees and contractors being omitted, as well as their duties at the CIA. The agency cited privacy protections, national security, and a federal law which exempts the agency from disclosing details about its operations.
A spokesperson for the Eastern District of Virginia admitted to BuzzFeed that “not knowing the identities of the suspects is a hindrance in identifying these cases and why they were declined.”
The documents showed that out of the 10 workers found to have committed sex crimes involving children, five were fired or resigned, four others were referred to a personnel board or the Office of Security, which investigates classified leaks and is responsible for the safety of CIA facilities.
The one case in which 10 child sexual abuse images were discovered on an unattended CIA computer had no specific outcome noted. The employee who was assigned that device claimed he had switched computers while he was overseas and denied using it to view child pornographic material.
An eleventh case showed the OIG received a complaint in November 2016 that an agency employee used a government computer to view child sexual abuse images. While the allegation was not corroborated by investigators, they found the employee had shown “a consistent interest and pattern of [redacted] conversations involving sexual activities between adults and minors.”
BuzzFeed noted that the IG notified security officials, as well as the Directorate of Science and Technology due to “potential security and accountability issues” involving the accusation. No further details are included in the information as to how the case was resolved, nor any penalties the employee received.
While the CIA’s handling of the cases is disturbing in and of itself, the revelations call into question why US attorneys would decline charges on anyone despite what appeared to be overwhelming evidence.
“The occupation or employer of the suspect does not factor into that evaluation,” said a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. “While we cannot comment on the reasons why specific cases were declined, we do take very seriously any allegation that our prosecutors declined a potential case based on an improper assessment of the relevant factors.”
According to the information received by BuzzFeed, it looks like about half of the sexual abuse investigations started with a confession by the suspects. The documents don’t show the circumstances surrounding such statements, nor whether they came about during so-called “full-scope” polygraph exams which examine every portion of CIA employees’ and contractors’ lives.
One former intelligence official told BuzzFeed that during such examinations, it isn’t unusual for someone to admit unlawful behavior in order to prove they are not lying, only to later realize that their statement might have hurt their chances to work for the agency or possibly put them in legal jeopardy.
Any such statements are forwarded to the IG, which then conducts an investigation to collect evidence proving existence of a crime. However the time in between gives the subject time to either delete or destroy evidence, the former official said.
This is what occurred in January 2010, when a CIA contractor logged into a chatroom using a CIA IP address and solicited sex from an FBI agent posing as a child. In that case, the contractor admitted being obsessed with child sexual abuse images, however by the time the inspector general obtained a search warrant and seized the man’s computer, “someone” had “removed the hard drives and thrown them away,” the reports said.
In another case, a CIA employee signed a sworn affidavit admitting he used his government issued laptop to view phots and videos of girls as young as 10 being abused by an “older guy.”
That employee admitted to looking at child abuse sexual images from the time he was in college, and acknowledged looking at as many as 1,400 while on assignment for the agency. He expressed remorse for the incidents, however said “he did not understand that it was a violation of agency policy to access child pornography until he took the Agency Information Security Course.” Clearly, the CIA doesn’t exactly hire rocket scientists.
Once again, when the IG examined the man’s computers, the images had disappeared. A federal prosecutor decided not to prosecute the employee “in favor of administrative action” by the agency. The recommendation of the personnel board was redacted from the report.
There were other cases, however where prosecutors had significant evidence with which to pursue charges, in particular an investigation which ended in August 2009. In that case, an official with a security clearance admitted having sexual contact with two girls, ages two and six, while also downloading illicit images while employed by the CIA. The IG initiated an inquiry in order to identify the victims.
Investigators found he had “extensively” downloaded abuse material, including 63 videos of children between the ages of 8 and 16. He extensively used government Wi-Fi to download the material, sent it to others, and brought photos back into the US after he returned from an overseas trip.
Still, despite treasure troves of evidence prosecutors for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to pursue a criminal case, claiming there were “taint issues,” a term referring to potentially mishandled evidence. The attorneys also claimed the girls seen on the videos had not been ‘previously identified child pornography victims,” making it harder to prove they were minors.
In the two known cases known to have led to criminal charges, both individuals were also charged with serious offenses related to classified information.
One IG report dated Aug 6, 2013, into a CIA contractor who was suspected of being in possession of child sexual abuse images included classified materials stored on his personal hard drive and “numerous technical documents related to the Agency’s systems” on his laptop. That contractor was fired and stripped of his security clearance. He pleaded guilty to the child abuse charges and forced to register as a sex offender. Again, the report says he was sentenced, however details including his name were redacted.
One man who was identified, CIA software engineer Joshua Schulte was charged in 2018 with possession of child sexual abuse images as part of a larger investigation into the largest leak of classified information in CIA history. This was known as Vault 7 and published by WikiLeaks, with the documents revealing secret tools used by the CIA to hack into computers. That case was prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Schulte has pleaded not guilty to child sexual abuse charges and faces a separate trial in that case.
Editor note: In 2020, we saw a nationwide push to “defund the police”. While we all stood here shaking our heads wondering if these people were serious… they cut billions of dollars in funding for police officers. And as a result, crime has skyrocketed – all while the same politicians who said “you don’t need guns, the government will protect you” continued their attacks on both our police officers and our Second Amendment rights.
And that’s exactly why we’re launching this national crowdfunding campaign as part of our efforts to help “re-fund the police”.
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