U.S. calls purported sex tape 'doctored' and a 'smear campaign'

By: Jill Dougherty
By: Jill Dougherty

(CNN) -- The State Department said Thursday the release of a videotape on a Russian Web site allegedly showing a State Department employee having sex with a prostitute is a "smear campaign" meant to discredit the employee who works in the sensitive area of religious and human rights in Russia.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told CNN the U.S. "deplores this type of campaign and use of the internet to smear a foreign service officer of good standing." The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, Kelly said, "supports" the employee, 34-year-old Brendan Kyle Hatcher, and Hatcher remains on his job at the U.S. Embassy.

Beyrle was unequivocal in expressing his support in an interview with ABC News. "Kyle Hatcher has done nothing wrong," Beyrle said. "Clearly the video we saw was a montage of lot of different clips, some of them which are clearly fabricated."

A senior State Department tells CNN "It's a doctored tape and a set-up designed to implicate someone working as a liaison with religious and human rights groups in Russia."

The official said Hatcher, who is married, "was approached by Russians, they tried to blackmail him, but he did everything correctly," reporting the incident to his supervisors at the embassy.

The tape then appeared on the Web site of the tabloid newspaper Compromat.ru and was subsequently picked up by other outlets. Diplomatic sources who declined to be named said that Compromat.ru has a history of ties to Russia's security services.

Another official told CNN Hatcher is a "great officer," who, until last summer, was a political reporting officer focussing on religious freedom issues in Russia. The assignment lasts for two years, including one year in that specialty and a second year on the visa-issuing line at the embassy.

Last year, this official said, Hatcher was the lead officer compiling the State Department's Religious Freedom report and was given an award for his work by the ambassador.

Another official confirmed that Hatcher received a meritorious honor award in 2009 and a group award in 2008. Hatcher, one official said, worked with religious groups that are considered "outside the mainstream" in Russia such as Protestant and non-Christians. Such faiths often face official and unofficial discrimination in Russia's largely Russian-Orthodox society.

Another senior State Department official told CNN "there is a lot of inertia" among some special security services in Russia. "They are pretty much unreconstructed," he says. The security services may have wanted to compromise Hatcher's ability to work with religious groups, he says, "or they may have wanted to throw a stick into the spokes" of the U.S.-Russia relationship. "Some in Moscow," he says, "are looking to integrate with the West and others are trying to stop that."

The officials asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

-- CNN's Matthew Chance in Moscow contributed to this report.

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