America’s secret service agency CIA has had credible information about the sexual exploitation of children by at least 10 of its employees and contractors in the past 14 years, reported Buzzfeed News. However, only one of them was charged with a crime while the others were subject to an internal investigation that allowed the sexual offenders to go scot-free.
The information was accessed through 3 lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act and 13 public records requests. Buzzfeed found that the Central Intelligence Agency sought to handle the sensitive cases ‘internally’, thereby ensuring that the child sexual offenders got away with job loss or security clearance. The handling of the cases by the CIA was in stark contrast with other US federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
As per sources, the agency protects its employees to prevent loss of control over sensitive information. The internal documents, submitted to the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, have detailed cases of sexual abuse. In one case, an employee was found guilty of making sexual contact with a 2-year-old toddler and a 6-year-old child. In another case, a CIA official bought 3 explicit videos of young girls, which were shot by their mothers. One employee was found to have viewed over 1400 child sexual abuse images during assignments.
Allegations of sexual abuse against CIA employees
Buzzfeed News reported that in January 2010, a CIA contractor had tried to solicit sex from an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who was posing as a child. The contractor, who had confessed about his obsession with child abuse images, had entered a chatroom using the IP address of the secret agency. When the Inspector General received a warrant to search the contents of the computer, it was found that the hard drives were removed and supposedly thrown away.
Moreover, another CIA official conceded to viewing sexually explicit images and videos of girls as young as 10 on a government-sanctioned laptop. He confessed to first viewing child sexual abuses images in college and continued to do so during his CIA assignments. In his defence, the employee had claimed, ” (I) did not understand that it was a violation of agency policy to access child pornography until he took the Agency Information Security Course.”
In August 2009, one CIA employee confessed to making sexual contact with two children, aged 2 and 6. He admitted to downloading sexually explicit images during his term with the agency. When the CIA Inspector General launched a probe, it was found that he was in possession of 63 videos of child sexual abuse. The official used the government wifi to download and distribute the material. He had brought child porn images from overseas after returning to the US, the Buzzfeed report says.
Again in August 2013, the Inspector General found a CIA contractor in possession of child sexual abuse images. He was removed from the agency and his security clearance was stripped off. Buzzfeed News reported that that the accused later pleaded guilty to child abuse and registered as a sexual offender. However, his name was missing in the internal CIA document that was released by the agency. Another CIA software engineer identified as Joshua Schulte was charged for possession of sexual abuse images in 2018. He had however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In November 2016, the CIA’s Inspector General was informed that an employee viewed child sexual abuse images using a government computer. Although no evidence was found, it established a ‘consistent interest and pattern of [redacted] conversations involving sexual activities between adults and minors.’ Since the allegations raised security and accountability issues, the CIA’s office alerted the Directorate of Science and Technology and other security officials.
Action taken by the Central Investigative Agency
Buzzfeed News found that only one CIA employee was charged with sexual offences. The said official was already under probe for mishandling of classified information. 5 of them tainted officials/contractors had resigned or were terminated from service. Four other accused were referred to the Office of Security that is responsible for investigating classified information. It was only in March this year that the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General began releasing the internal documents.
So far, about 3000 pages have been released that covered years between 2004-2019. The news outlet found that although evidence of sexual crimes was unearthed, no charges were filed by the federal prosecutors. It was also found that the CIA reports were heavily redacted and the names of the accused officials, contractors and their employment details were withheld. The Central Investigative agency had cited national security, privacy and federal laws to refrain from disclosing information about the same.
In its defence, the agency claimed to take allegations of ‘possible criminal misconduct’ by its officials seriously. While speaking about the matter, a spokesperson for the Eastern District of Virginia remarked, “ The district takes seriously its responsibility to hold accountable federal government employees who violate federal law within our jurisdiction.” The report by Buzzfeed News also brings into question the role of US attorneys, who did not press charges despite incriminating evidence. Interestingly, prosecutors use their arbitrary discretionary powers to judge the credibility of evidence and weigh the chances to convince a jury.