FBI won’t ‘sidestep’ sexual misconduct claims, director says
FBI Director Christopher Wray is seeking to reassure agents that the bureau won’t tolerate sexual misconduct in the workplace, promising more resources for victims and full investigations into claims brought against FBI officials – “regardless of rank or title.”
Wray sent a lengthy statement to staff late last week following an Associated Press investigation that found at least six senior FBI officials, including an assistant director, were accused of sexual misconduct over the past five years, with allegations ranging from unwanted touching and sexual advances to coercion.
The AP found that the FBI officials it identified were not disciplined and several were quietly transferred or retired, keeping their full pensions and benefits even when probes substantiated the sexual misconduct accusations against them.
In his statement, Wray reiterated the FBI’s “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual misconduct but also acknowledged “there are some that haven’t always lived up to those standards.”
“We won’t hesitate to impose severe sanctions where misconduct is substantiated, including revocation of security clearances and dismissal from duty,” Wray wrote. “We also want to make it crystal clear that victims and witnesses won’t be marginalized, ignored or retaliated against for bringing allegations against any FBI leader or colleague.”
The sexual misconduct has drawn the attention of Congress and advocacy groups, which called for new whistleblower protections for rank-and-file FBI employees and for an outside entity to review the bureau’s disciplinary cases.
Wray said he had directed the bureau’s associate deputy director “to explore ways to leverage the Victim Services Division and other components to provide necessary support and resources to victims of harassment or misconduct.”
“As leaders, we can’t – and won’t – ignore or sidestep this issue,” Wray added. “No one deserves unwelcome sexual misconduct or sexual harassment, and no one should suffer in silence or feel like they need to tolerate inappropriate or illegal behavior.”