The Cable

Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence

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.

 

The Cable

Wish Obama's New Gitmo Czar Luck; He's Gonna Need It

Today, the Obama administration will announce the appointment of D.C. lawyer Clifford Sloan as the State Department's new envoy tasked with closing the Guantanamo Bay prison facility. One small problem: with some 150 unprosecutable detainees there, shutting down Gitmo is going to be borderline impossible.

Sloan, a former assistant to the Solicitor General in the George H.W. Bush administration and associate White House counsel in the Clinton administration has his work cut out for him. Efforts to close the facility have been stalled since January when the administration reassigned the previous special envy, Daniel Fried, without an immediate replacement.

In a statement on Sunday night, Secretary of State John Kerry said closing Gitmo "will not be easy, but if anyone can effectively navigate the space between agencies and branches of government, it's Cliff."

But Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch and a former colleague of Sloan's told The Cable that the real pressure is on President Barack Obama. "As good as Cliff is, he can only go so far,' said Roth. "He's going to need the president to match the nice words from his speech at the National Defense University to a genuine commitment to close the facility."

As it stands, there are 166 men left in the facility at a costs of $150 million annually to U.S. taxpayers. On Sunday, the Pentagon's chief prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins scaled back the number of detainees "who can be realistically prosecuted" to around 20, meaning almost 150 will never be tried.

Last month, Obama denounced the facility as a propaganda tool for America's enemies and a hindrance to U.S. cooperation with allies on joint investigations at a counterterrorism speech at the National Defense University in Washington. "The original premise for opening Gitmo - that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention - was found unconstitutional five years ago," Obama said. "In the meantime, Gitmo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law."

Administration critics from the left and right will be watching the administration's next moves closely.

Human rights activists want to see an end to both the facility, and its detainment policies. "One choice that shouldn't be an option is continuing a ‘Guantanamo North,'" said Roth, "a facility in the United States that supports detention without trial."

Meanwhile, the administration is wary of having a so-called "Willie Horton terrorist" moment on its hands, in which a prisoner upon release carries out a mass atrocity leaving the politician at least somewhat accountable.