|Exclusive: CIA Station Chief in Algeria Accused of Rapes
"Ugly American"? Spy Boss Allegedly Drugged Muslim Women, Made Secret Sex Videos
News | January 28, 2009
The CIA's station chief at its sensitive post in Algeria is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly raping at least two Muslim women who claim he laced their drinks with a knock-out drug, U.S. law enforcement sources tell ABC News.
Officials say the 41-year old CIA officer, a convert to Islam, was ordered home by the U.S. Ambassador, David Pearce, in October after the women came forward with their rape allegations in September.
The discovery of more than a dozen videotapes showing the CIA officer engaged in sex acts with other women has led the Justice Department to broaden its investigation to include at least one other Arab country, Egypt, where the CIA officer had been posted earlier in his career, according to law enforcement officials.
The U.S. State Department referred questions to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment.
"It has the potential to be quite explosive if it's not handled well by the United States government," said Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who specializes in women's issues in the Middle East.
"This isn't the type of thing that's going to be easily pushed under the carpet," she said.
The CIA refused to acknowledge the investigation or provide the name of the Algiers station chief, but the CIA Director of Public Affairs, Mark Mansfield, said, "I can assure you that the Agency would take seriously, and follow up on, any allegations of impropriety."
It can be a crime for government officials to reveal the identity of a current covert intelligence officer, and CIA officials would not comment the status of the person under investigation.
One of the alleged victims reportedly said she met the CIA officer at a bar in the U.S. embassy and then was taken to his official station chief residence where she said the sexual assault took place.
The second alleged victim reportedly told U.S. prosecutors that, in a separate incident, she also was drugged at the American's official residence before being sexually assaulted.
Both women have reportedly given sworn statements to federal prosecutors sent from Washington to prepare a possible criminal case against the CIA officer.
Following the initial complaints, U.S. officials say they obtained a warrant from a federal judge in Washington, D.C. in October to search the station chief's CIA-provided residence in Algiers and turned up the videos that appear to have been secretly recorded and show, they say, the CIA officer engaged in sexual acts.
Officials say one of the alleged victims is seen on tape, in a "semi-conscious state."
The time-stamped date on other tapes led prosecutors to broaden the investigation to Egypt because the date matched a time when CIA officer was in Cairo, officials said.
Pills found in the CIA residence were sent to the FBI crime laboratory for testing, according to officials involved in the case.
"Drugs commonly referred to as date rape drugs are difficult to detect because the body rapidly metabolizes them," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. "Many times women are not aware they were even assaulted until the next day," he said.
A third woman, a friend of one of the alleged victims, reportedly provided a cell phone video that showed her friend having a drink and dancing inside the CIA station chief's residence in Algiers, which officials told ABC News provided corroboration the CIA officer had indeed brought the woman to his residence.
The officer in charge of the CIA station in Algiers plays an important role in working with the Algerian intelligence services to combat an active al Qaeda wing responsible for a wave of bombings in Algeria.
In the most serious incident, 48 people were killed in a bombing in August, 2008 in Algiers, blamed on the al Qaeda group.
The Algerian ambassador to the United Nations, Mourad Benmehid, said his government had not been notified by the U.S. of the rape allegations or the criminal investigation.
Repeated messages left for the CIA officer with his parents and his sister were not returned.
No charges have been filed but officials said a grand jury was likely to consider an indictment on sexual assault charges as early as next month.
"This will be seen as the typical ugly American," said former CIA officer Bob Baer, reacting to the ABC News report. "My question is how the CIA would not have picked up on this in their own regular reviews of CIA officers overseas," Baer said.
"From a national security standpoint," said Baer, the alleged rapes would be "not only wrong but could open him up to potential blackmail and that's something the CIA should have picked up on," said Baer. "This is indicative of personnel problems of all sorts that run through the agency," he said.
"Rape is ugly in any context," said Coleman who praised the bravery of the alleged Algerian victims in going to authorities. "Rape is viewed as very shameful to women, and I think this is an opportunity for the US to show how seriously it takes the issue of rape," she said.