- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
The State Department investigator who accused colleagues last week of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, and having sex with minors says that Foggy Bottom is now engaged in an "intimidation" campaign to stop her.
Last week’s leaks by Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator, shined a light on alleged wrongdoing by U.S. officials around the globe. But her attorney Cary Schulman tells The Cable that Fedenisn has paid a steep price: "They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself."
Fedenisn’s life changed dramatically last Monday after she handed over documents and statements to CBS News alleging that senior State Department officials "influenced, manipulated, or simply called off" several investigations into misconduct. The suppression of investigations was noted in an early draft of an Inspector General report, but softened in the final version.
Erich Hart, general counsel to the Inspector General, did not reply to a request for comment. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last week that "we hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly." She also announced that the department would request additional review by outside law enforcement officers on OIG inspection processes.
After the CBS News made inquiries to the State Department about the charges, Schulman says investigators from the State Department’s Inspector General promptly arrived at Fedenisn’s door. "They talked to both kids and never identified themselves," he said. "First the older brother and then younger daughter, a minor, asking for their mom’s place of work and cell phone number … They camped out for four to five hours."
Schulman says the purpose of the visit was to get Fedenisn to sign a document admitting that she stole State Department materials, such as the memos leaked to CBS. Schulman says it was crucial that she didn’t sign the document because her separation agreement with the State Department includes a provision allowing disclosures of misconduct. Furthermore, none of the materials were classified.
Schulman charged that sending law enforcement officers to pressure her into signing an agreement was heavy handed. "Why not simply mail it, courier it, send it Federal Express or deliver it by any other normal means by which one delivers a demand letter? Why send two federal law enforcement agents?" he asked. He also said that officials from the Inpsector General’s Office told him they’d be having a "no kidding get together with the DOJ," implying to him that they would push criminal charges if his client didn’t cooperate.
In discussing the chain of events with Kel McClanahan, a D.C. attorney who has represented several agency whistleblowers, McClanahan said the case smacked of intimidation.
"This type of intimidation technique is all too common when an agency wants something from you that it is not entirely confident it can get without your cooperation, and more often than not people who don’t know any better fall for it," he told The Cable. "Regardless of what you may think of Fedenisn’s motives, she worked for these guys for years and she knows their playbook … I would have been shocked if she did anything except promptly hire a lawyer and call their bluff."
Update: In an email to The Cable, Doug Welty, Congressional & Public Affairs Officer at the State Department’s Office of Inspector General, sends the following message:
Highly sensitive, internal documents that contained personal information and unsubstantiated allegations were improperly removed from OIG custody and subsequently released to unauthorized individuals.
OIG wants to emphasize the sensitive nature of OIG inspection information, particularly when it pertains to individuals and may be incomplete or contain unverified, raw data.
· OIG did not authorize any such release. As soon as OIG learned that documents were improperly removed and released, OIG took appropriate steps to remediate potential damage.
· OIG sought to retrieve the documents and information, and put the person who leaked them on notice not to distribute them further, nor distribute additional documents or information, in accordance with the standard "Separation Statement" presented to all employees when leaving Department employ and signed by Ms. Fedenisn in December, 2012.
· OIG’s efforts to retrieve the internal documents and information were done in an effort to protect the sensitive information contained therein and to prevent harm to potential investigations or administrative disciplinary adjudications, as well as harm to private individuals named in the documents, and their due process and privacy rights.