State Dept. Dismisses Allegations Of "Endemic" Misconduct

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

(CBS News) After CBS News reported on documents indicating that the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within its ranks, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday told reporters that any such incidents would be "fully investigated." But she disputed the charge that improper behavior within the department is an endemic problem.

"I'm not going to speak to specific cases, but it's hardly endemic," Psaki told reporters at a State Department briefing. "Any case we would take seriously and that's certainly what we're doing."

The Diplomatic Security Service, or the DSS, is the State Department's security force, charged with protecting the secretary of state and U.S. ambassadors overseas and with investigating any cases of misconduct on the part of the 70,000 State Department employees worldwide.

On Monday morning, CBS News' John Miller reported on an internal State Department Inspector General's memo, which alleged that several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples. Among them include allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual assaults" on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries" -- a problem the report says was "endemic."

The memo also reveals details about an "underground drug ring" was operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and supplied State Department security contractors with drugs.

And in one instance, according to the memo, State Department agents reported to the Inspector General that they were told to stop investigating the case of a U.S. Ambassador who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park.

Responding to questions about the report, Psaki said the department would look into any possible criminal activity and that "diplomatic security has taken the further step of requesting an additional review."

She did not, however, confirm that the details stated in the report were necessarily correct.

"These are allegations in a memo," she said. "All these cases are being looked into or have been looked into."

In a statement Monday, Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, said he was "appalled" by both the alleged misconduct and "the reported interference in the investigations of" it.

"The notion that any or all of the cases contained in news reports would not be investigated thoroughly by the Department is unthinkable. Department interference with the independence of any DSS investigations must be uncovered," he said. "I have asked my staff to begin an investigation into these allegations and intend to raise the issue with Secretary Kerry immediately."

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