The Central Intelligence Agency announced this week several measures it will take to address internal sexual assault and harassment allegations, which have recently come under congressional scrutiny and prompted a review by the agency’s watchdog.
Multiple victims have approached the Senate and House Intelligence committees with complaints about the agency’s handling of claims of misconduct, citing, for instance, potential obstacles to filing criminal complaints with law enforcement.
On Thursday CIA announced the appointment of Dr. Taleeta Jackson, a seasoned psychologist who most recently led the Sexual Assault Prevention Program at the U.S. Navy, as the new head of a dedicated sexual assault and prevention office at CIA. It will also establish an internal task force that will be advised by outside experts and plans to issue new guidance on reporting incidents by the end of May.
“I have personally met with several affected officers to hear their concerns and solicit their feedback on ways we can improve as an Agency,” CIA Director William Burns said in a statement. “I have heard these concerns loud and clear, and Dr. Jackson’s appointment is just one of several steps we are taking to address them.”
“More reforms are coming,” he said. “We must get this right.”
The Senate and House Intelligence Committees have recently contacted the CIA about complaints brought by employees regarding its alleged mishandling of cases.
In April, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner of Virginia and Vice Chairman Marco Rubio of Florida wrote to Robin Ashton, the CIA inspector general, expressing concern about “a number” of allegations of sexual assault and harassment that had been made known to the committee and were said to have been “grossly mishandled” by the CIA. The senators requested an investigation be opened.
“Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace,” Warner said. “The Senate Intelligence Committee will continue to be watching this closely.”
Multiple CIA employees have also contacted the House Intelligence Committee since the beginning of the year, according to Politico, which first reported the committee’s scrutiny of the cases.
“Sexual assault and sexual harassment have no place in the Intelligence Community. We must protect our men and women bravely serving our country and punish the individuals who commit assaults,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Turner of Ohio and Ranking Member Jim Himes of Connecticut said in a statement. “We appreciate the CIA’s willingness to work with the House Intelligence Committee and their commitment to implementing meaningful changes within the agency that address this serious matter.”
Kevin Carroll, an attorney representing the first female officer to approach Congress, called the CIA’s reforms “an excellent first step.” He urged the task force to most urgently address the agency’s mechanisms for referring criminal complaints of assault and rape, as well as its instructions to victims for speaking to law enforcement.
Carroll also welcomed Congress’s continued involvement. “Good for the congressional oversight committees investigating this important issue in a bipartisan fashion,” he said.