Senate Intel Committee calls for watchdog to probe CIA handling of sexual assault cases

CNN Newsource Pristine Villarreal

(CNN) — The Senate Intelligence Committee is calling on the CIA Inspector General to “initiate an immediate investigation” into the agency’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault and harassment cases, according to a new letter sent to the watchdog’s office.

The letter from committee chairman Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and vice chair Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, which has not been previously reported, was sent on Wednesday, Rubio’s office confirmed to CNN.

It says the request for an investigation by the inspector general comes after the panel was notified “of a number of allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment committed against Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers — by CIA officers — that are alleged to have been grossly mishandled by the CIA.”

“We are extremely concerned by what we have learned to-date about the nature of these allegations and CIA’s response to them. We write to request that you immediately initiate an investigation to examine CIA’s adherence to all applicable laws and Agency regulations, guidance, protocols, and practice to ensure a workplace free from sexual assault and harassment, to include the extent to which perpetrators — and not the victims — of such conduct are held to account under the law and CIA regulations,” the letter states.

“We respectfully request that you examine and investigate the roles and responsibilities of all Agency components in preventing — and responding to allegations of — sexual assault or harassment among Agency personnel,” it adds. “We further request that you consider the extent to which the law or Agency regulations, guidance, protocols, or practice present obstacles to the administration of justice under the law or in Agency personnel decisions and make recommended changes that would remove any identified barriers to achieving just results in cases of sexual assault or sexual harassment.”

CIA IG Robin C. Ashton told CNN in a statement that the office is reviewing the letter.

“We take very seriously the committee’s request for an examination of the important issues they have highlighted and will take appropriate action consistent with our independent oversight responsibilities,” the statement added.

A CIA spokesperson said they would not comment on the investigation.

“We do not comment on CIA Inspector General investigations, but there is no tolerance for sexual assault or harassment at CIA. The Director and senior CIA leaders take this matter extremely seriously,” CIA spokesperson Tammy Kupperman Thorp said.

The request comes after the House Intelligence Committee said earlier this month it was investigating the CIA’s handling of sexual assault and harassment cases.

That probe also comes as multiple female CIA employees have approached the House committee since the beginning of this year and told lawmakers the agency is discouraging women from filing sexual misconduct complaints, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Responding to the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, the CIA said in a previous statement: “There can be no tolerance for sexual assault or harassment at CIA. The Director and senior CIA leaders have personally met with officers to understand their concerns and to take swift action. We have established an office to work closely with survivors of sexual assault, and we are committed to treating every concern raised by members of the workforce with the utmost seriousness.”

“Our senior leadership team, including the Director, continues to be fully engaged on this issue and is tracking it closely. We are committed to supporting the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation and are keeping the Committee updated on our progress,” the agency added.

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