CIA fires whistleblower who sparked flood of sexual misconduct complaints

(Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

CIA fires whistleblower who sparked flood of sexual misconduct complaints


February 8, 2024

The CIA this week fired a woman whose whistleblower account of the sexual assault in a stairwell at the spy agency’s headquarters prompted a stream of colleagues to come forward with their own complaints of sexual misconduct. The woman’s lawyer called the action a shameless retaliation.

While the CIA said the accusation was factually incorrect, it would not comment further on the case and declined to explain why the 36-year-old had not gone through the agency’s clandestine officer training program known as the Farm and, unlike many of her classmates were not hired for another job.

To be clear, the CIA does not tolerate sexual abuse, sexual harassment or retaliation by whistleblowers, CIA spokesperson Tammy Thorp told the Associated Press, adding that the agency uses consistent processes to ensure the fair and equal treatment of every officer undergoing training. to guarantee.

The woman’s firing came less than six months after she filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that the CIA retaliated against her for allegedly reporting a 2022 stairwell attack in Langley, Virginia to law enforcement authorities and testing about it in a closed hearing in Congress. .

The defendant accused the agency of giving her more stringent performance ratings and slut-shaming her by unlawfully releasing her personal information during last year’s state prosecution of Ashkan Bayatpour, a then-fellow CIA trainee convicted of assaulting her with a scarf.

The woman’s attorney, Kevin Carroll, told the AP that the CIA has now illegally ended a young woman’s career just because she had the moral courage, lacking her managers, to stand up and testify of her sexual assault.

The agencies that solve the problem of sexual violence in the workplace are now harming the retention of young women who no longer want to put up with it, Carroll said.

The woman, who is not being identified because the AP generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse, was credited with launching a reckoning of sorts at the CIA over the rare allegation of sexual misconduct at the super-secret spy agency. to turn it into a public courtroom.

An AP investigation found that over the past two years the case has encouraged at least 20 women to come to authorities and Congress with their own stories at the CIA of sexual assault, unwanted touching and what they claim is a campaign to get them off to keep from speaking. out.

Their allegations ranged from lewd comments about sexual fantasies during after-work happy hours to a case in which a senior manager allegedly came to a subordinate’s home at night with a gun and demanded sex. Some of the alleged incidents date back years and occurred when officers were conducting high-risk secret missions abroad, while others took place at CIA headquarters.

A congressional investigation and bipartisan calls for a watchdog investigation prompted CIA Director William Burns last year to implement a series of reforms to streamline claims, support victims and more quickly discipline those behind wrongdoing.

It remains unclear whether the woman’s dismissal will lead to further action. The offices of the two senators leading the investigation, Virginia Democrat Mark Warner and Florida Republican Marco Rubio, did not respond to requests for comment.

Carroll, the woman’s attorney, said she was granted protected whistleblower status before speaking to Congress. But those familiar with the Whistleblower Protection Act warned that such protections could be limited, especially at the CIA.

Tom Devine, a longtime advocate for whistleblower rights and legal director of the Government Accountability Project, said CIA employees do not have the same rights as other federal employees due to national security concerns.

You can blow the whistle, but only within the intelligence community,” Devine said. So when she went to the police, she was all alone. It’s an unpleasant loophole.”

In her testimony before a Virginia judge last summer, the woman recounted the moment Bayatpour allegedly tightened the scarf around her neck and tried to kiss her against her will.

He made a face like he really wanted to hurt me, she tested. That face is what stays with me today. That’s the hardest part.

Bayatpour acknowledged wrapping the scarf around the woman in the stairwell but insisted his actions were intended as a joke during a 40-minute walk together. The incident, his lawyer said, was a prank that did not land as intended.

Bayatpour, a 39-year-old Alabama native and former Navy intelligence officer, remained with the CIA for several months after being convicted in August of assault and battery, sentenced to six months’ probation and ordered to surrender all firearms in to deliver.

But as of last month, he no longer works for the CIA, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bayatpour deferred questions to his attorney, Jennifer Steeve, who said her client has maintained his innocence and is appealing his conviction, which would give him a jury trial.

___Mustian reported from New York and Goodman from Miami. ___Contact AP’s global investigative team at [email protected] or


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