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Several high-ranking FBI officials and senior agents have been forced to retire or have otherwise left the bureau following a series of sexual misconduct complaints for years, a news report said Thursday.
The Associated Press reported that in one instance, an assistant FBI director left the bureau after being accused by a female subordinate of groping her in a stairwell while he was drunk.
Another senior-level FBI official simply left after an internal investigation found he had sexually harassed eight staffers. And another high-ranking agent went into retirement after he stood accused of blackmailing a younger staffer into having sex.
An AP investigation uncovered at least a half-dozen instances over the past five years involving senior FBI officials to include a pair of new claims just this week from women who say ranking agents sexually assaulted them.
In each of the cases, the AP said that none of the accused agents appear to have faced any disciplinary measures. Several, in fact, were merely transferred quietly, or retired, and were allowed to keep their full pensions and government benefits even when internal investigations substantiated the claims of sexual misconduct against them.
The outlet noted that federal law enforcement agents and officials enjoy anonymity after the disciplinary process is over, which then gives them the ability to enter the private sector without any record of misbehavior, including as civilian law enforcement officers.
“They’re sweeping it under the rug,” a former FBI analyst told the AP.
She is alleging in a newly filed federal lawsuit a supervisory special agent licked her face and then sexually groped her at a farewell party for a colleague in 2017.
The AP said the analyst has since left the bureau and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“As the premier law enforcement organization that the FBI holds itself out to be, it’s very disheartening when they allow people they know are criminals to retire and pursue careers in law enforcement-related fields,” the former analyst, who only identified herself as Becky, told the AP.
The newswire’s findings regarding sexual misconduct don’t include a rising number of instances where senior officials and staffers engage in voluntary romantic relationships but have not reported them. The frequency of those relationships has caused alarm among investigators within the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General while leading many to question the bureau’s policy on such relationships.
The expanding number of sexual assault and misconduct cases at the FBI has also garnered the attention of some members of Congress, including Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who has criticized how women are treated at the bureau, which is dominated by men.
“They need a #MeToo moment,” she told the AP.
“It’s repugnant, and it underscores the fact that the FBI and many of our institutions are still good ol’-boy networks,” Speier added. “It doesn’t surprise me that, in terms of sexual assault and sexual harassment, they are still in the Dark Ages.”
The FBI told the AP in a statement the agency “maintains a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment.” The statement noted that when such behavior is discovered among senior officials, they are removed from positions until an investigation can be completed.
There are also other factors to be considered, the FBI said, including “the credibility of the allegations, the severity of the conduct, and the rank and position of the individuals involved.”
The sexual misconduct allegations only add to the bureau’s already sullied reputation following an unsubstantiated counterintelligence probe into the 2016 Trump campaign and the politicized targeting of President Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, all of which occurred during the tenure of then-Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Comey was fired by President Trump in May 2017 for his mishandling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton. McCabe was fired by then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for lying to investigators about leaking sensitive materials to the media.
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