Howard Gutman: Prostitution Wasn't Even the Worst Thing State Department Covered Up
March 2, 2016, 1:35 p.m.: In October 2014, the U.S. State Department issued an apology to former Belgian ambassador Howard Gutman, who had been named in a department leak supposedly showing that he had solicited prostitutes, and others affected by the leak. The allegations against Gutman, initially made in 2011, had been ruled false at the time; Gutman was cleared again in 2014 after an independent investigation. The following Mic story, which appears here in its original published form, was written based on information available at the time of its publication. Gutman has since written about the scandal at the Washington Post.
Just a year after Secret Service agents traveling with the president in Columbia were found to have been bringing women back to their hotel room, CBS News has uncovered documents showing that the State Department has been covering up similarly if not more inappropriate behavior in their ranks, including an ambassador.
Sources from inside the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), charged with State Department security and internal investigation, leaked an inspector general's memo showing that investigations were manipulated to protect careers or to avoid scandal. In total, eight investigations of inappropriate behavior are mentioned in the memo, including:
— An ambassador, believed to be Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, who "routinely ditched ... his protective security detail," and inspectors suspect this was in order to "solicit sexual favors from prostitutes," some of whom were underage. The investigation into Gutman was called off after his meeting with Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy;
— Members of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail were involved in the "endemic" use of prostitutes during trips abroad. This investigation was shut down by the Special Investigations Division;
— Candidate for the ambassadorship to Iraq Bett McGurk, who had an extramarital affair with Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon, was not fully investigated on orders from Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills;
— An "underground drug ring" operated near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and was used to provide contractors with drugs;
— DSS agents "engaged in sexual assaults" while posted in Beirut.
In response to these allegations, Kennedy said, "I have never once interfered, nor would I condone interfering, in any investigation." Ambassador Gutman commented these were "baseless allegations." The White House pledged to follow a "zero tolerance [policy] for misconduct by any government employee."
CBS acquired an inspector general's memo leaked by Diplomatic Security Service agent Aurelia Fedenisn. She says that despite having shown her direct superiors that State Department higher-ups were interfering with DSS cases, her findings were never acted upon and the cases that had been interfered with were not revisited.
"I mean my heart really went out to the agents in that office, because they really want to do the right thing, they want to investigate the cases fully, correctly, accurately ... and they can't," Fedenisn said. She justified her leak by saying that if any "hostile intelligence services" found out about these behaviors, they could use it for blackmail, which "presents a serious risk to the United States government."