US State Department probes report of sex misconduct by staff abroad

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The State Department said yesterday it was investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by overseas staff including a report that an ambassador patronized prostitutes after a leaked memo said the agency had ignored the misbehavior.

CBS News this week reported it had obtained an internal State Department inspector general’s memo that said several investigations into possible cases of misconduct were influenced, manipulated or called off.

The memo, according to CBS, listed eight examples of alleged misconduct. They include allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” on foreign nationals hired as embassy guards, and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” – a problem the report says was “endemic.”

The memo, CBS said, alleges an underground drug ring operating near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which supplied State Department contractors with drugs. It said a U.S. ambassador in a sensitive diplomatic post was suspected of “patronizing prostitutes in a public park,” according to CBS.

Although the CBS report did not identify employees alleged to have been involved, U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman issued a statement on Tuesday denying he did anything wrong.

“I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating,” Gutman said.

“I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity.”

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