Intelligence agency fails to report admissions of criminal conduct by employees and contractors

Here’s a nasty little companion piece to today’s story about tax-delinquent employees of the Internal Revenue Service receiving big performance bonuses, courtesy of McClatchy News, which has been working on the story for years:

The nation???s spy satellite agency failed to notify authorities when some employees and contractors confessed during lie detector tests to crimes such as child molestation, an intelligence inspector general has concluded.

In other cases, the National Reconnaissance Office delayed reporting criminal admissions obtained during security clearance polygraphs, possibly jeopardizing evidence in investigations or even the safety of children, according to the inspector general report released Tuesday , almost two years after McClatchy???s reporting raised similar concerns.

Child molestation?  And not just an old incident, either.  It turned out that the contractor in question was still actively in contact with the victim:

In one instance, one of the agency???s top lawyers told colleagues not to bother reporting confessions by a government contractor of child molestation, viewing child pornography and sexting with a minor, the inquiry by the inspector general for the intelligence community revealed.

???Doubt we have enough to interest the FBI,??? the agency???s then assistant general counsel told another official in an email, adding, ???the alleged victim is fourteen years old and fully capable of calling the police herself.??? Neither party in the email was identified by name.

After the other official insisted on reporting it, the confession was eventually investigated and it turned out that the girl was still in contact with the contractor who???d confessed to the crimes. It took almost five weeks for the Department of Justice to be informed.

What possible excuse could anyone offer for keeping admissions of child sexual abuse under wraps?

When confronted with the lapses by the inspector general???s investigators, the National Reconnaissance Office???s then-top lawyers said they ???were not legally obligated . . . to report child sexual abuse to DOJ or law enforcement organizations because child abuse is a state crime, not a federal crime,??? the report said.

???Therefore they generally chose not to report those crimes unless the admissions also involved federal crimes such as possession of child pornography.???

Imperial Washington picks some mighty strange moments to grow obsessed with the rights and privileges of state government, doesn’t it?  As the Inspector General’s report noted, the bizarre notion that federal officials aren’t legally required to report state crimes perpetrated by its employees doesn’t mean they are prohibited from doing so.  The IG found a total of seven polygraph admissions related to child pornography or molestation that went unreported by the National Reconnaissance Office.  Similar cases stretch all the way back to 2010, including an Air Force officer who admitted he had “touched a child in a sexual way and had downloaded child pornography on his Pentagon computer,” but still managed to retire with full benefits and retain his security clearance.

A gaggle of officials deciding to keep mum about an ongoing case of pedophilia gives new meaning to the term “soulless bureaucracy.”

The overall average time for reporting criminal offenses discovered by this polygraph program worked out to over 100 days, which gave the suspects a ridiculous amount of time to continue illicit activities, destroy evidence, and potentially compromise national security while they remained on the job.  This has supposedly been improved to three days.  Then again, there were supposed to be a bunch of improvements made after McClatchy first published a major report on problems with the polygraph program almost two years ago, and yet the latest IG report (which was leaked, not provided openly to reporters) quotes an official describing the current status of the program as “bleak.”

There’s a lot more in the McClatchy report, including some bitter internal arguments about what sort of questions the NRO is allowed to ask its employees and contractors during these polygraph exams (supposedly only questions directly related to national security, but it’s not hard to argue that most serious criminal offenses, most especially including child sexual abuse, turn someone into a huge security risk), allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers, and speculation that other government agencies may have similar problems.

Congress is already involved, particularly Senator Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who said it was “hard to understand” why crimes involving children weren’t reported immediately, and the latest Inspector General report demonstrated “a complete lack of common sense in failing to require reporting of serious state crimes of this sort.”