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CIA Strengthening Response to Reports of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

July 2, 2024

For Immediate Release: July 2, 2024

CIA Strengthening Response to Reports of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

As CIA Director, taking care of our people is my top priority. This includes ensuring that we continue to strengthen the Agency’s response to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment. While we have more to do, I’m proud of the progress we have made to substantially improve our response to reports and expand significantly the resources available to those who have witnessed or been the victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment.

The steps we have taken align with recommendations made by our Inspector General. We have also worked closely with Congress and have shared with our oversight committees the progress the Agency has made, including implementing key provisions of the Intelligence Authorization Act.

We have increased our capacity to address employees’ reports of sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination, and other forms of harassment. As Chief Operating Officer Maura Burns conveyed in January, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Office (SHARP) is responsible for receiving all allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The newly established Resolution Office (RO) is the Agency’s focal point for the resolution of harassment, grievances, and other workplace conflicts, and the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (OEEO) is now better positioned to prevent and respond to allegations of discrimination and harassment.

Just over a year ago, Dr. Taleeta Jackson, who has more than 20 years of critical expertise, stood up the office now known as SHARP. In response to feedback that pathways for reporting instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment were confusing, we have worked with Dr. Jackson to refine these processes, and to establish SHARP as the entry point for any officer who has a sexual harassment or sexual assault claim. Dr. Jackson has focused on victim care and support while overseeing a major increase in SHARP’s resources, tripling its size and doubling its budget.

To encourage reporting of any instances of sexual assault or sexual harassment, we have worked with Congress to ensure that officers can choose to make such reports confidentially or instead pursue investigative services and the assistance of law enforcement. To facilitate interactions with law enforcement, as SHARP announced in February 2024, we have in place an interim Special Victim Investigator (SVI) and are in the process of hiring a permanent SVI. The SVI is a federal law enforcement officer who works with SHARP to help facilitate investigations, including referrals to the appropriate law enforcement entity or investigatory process.

An Agency officer may choose to facilitate engagement with law enforcement through the SVI, but an Agency officer may also report a crime directly to law enforcement at any time and will not be discouraged from doing so. SHARP has a staff with certified victim advocates who are very familiar with the available reporting options described below, including restricted reports, unrestricted reports, and reporting to the Resolution Office, OEEO, or directly to law enforcement, and who can make a range of resources available to victims.

Per the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, when CIA personnel wish to report instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault to SHARP, they can do so using either restricted or unrestricted reports. Restricted reports allow officers to seek victim services while keeping their report confidential, as restricted reports are privileged and will normally not result in a referral to law enforcement or commencement of a formal administrative investigation, unless the victim elects to change the report to an unrestricted report or other limited exceptions apply. Unrestricted reports allow victims to access the full range of investigative services, to include seeking the assistance of the SVI, who can facilitate engagement with law enforcement relating to sexual assault allegations and the Resolution Office and/or OEEO relating to sexual harassment claims. Regardless of whether a report is restricted or unrestricted, Agency personnel take steps to protect the privacy of individuals involved. Agency personnel are, for instance, prohibited from disclosing any person’s Privacy Act protected records, absent the written consent of the individual to whom the information pertains, a court order or law enforcement request, or as otherwise provided by the Privacy Act.

Given the nature of our work, we understand that employees may have questions about how to engage with law enforcement and whether they can acknowledge their CIA affiliation or the CIA affiliation of the accused. Those types of questions can be addressed by the SVI. But briefly, the fact that a sexual assault or sexual harassment has occurred is not classified, although surrounding circumstances, including the identities of any clandestine employees or facilities related to the allegations, may be. Regardless, Agency employees do not need permission to contact law enforcement to report a crime. Employees should never hesitate in an emergency to call 911 and get the immediate help they need.

Whenever classified information is needed for a report to law enforcement, the Agency will work with law enforcement, including through the SVI, to ensure that classified information is appropriately protected, including by providing contact information for cleared investigators at US federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies to ensure that Agency personnel can provide truthful reports containing all material facts to law enforcement. In no case shall information be classified to conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency; restrain competition; or prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.

Any CIA employee who has been the victim of sexual assault or sexual harassment is encouraged to reach out to the appropriate offices within the Agency, including SHARP, the Resolution Office, and OEEO, as well as the federal or state law enforcement authority with jurisdiction over the matter.

Indeed, CIA personnel who suffer or witness a crime are encouraged to contact US federal, state, or local law enforcement. Agency employees do not need Agency permission to contact law enforcement agencies for this purpose. Likewise, they do not need to submit outside activities requests before doing so.

I take the issue of sexual harassment and sexual assault extremely seriously. We must get this right. The senior leadership team and I will continue to build on the important reforms we have already made, and to ensure that Dr. Jackson and her SHARP team have all the support and resources they need. We will continue to act quickly and systematically to further reinforce the safe, healthy, and respectful workplace that all of you deserve.

- William J. Burns

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