Saturday, November 22, 2014

F.B.I. Is Investigating Retired U.S. Diplomat, a Pakistan Expert // Eavesdropping on Pakistani Official Led to Inquiry

WASHINGTON — F.B.I. counterintelligence agents are investigating a veteran American diplomat suspected of taking classified information home from the State Department, and have searched her house and office for evidence, government officials said Friday. The diplomat, Robin L. Raphel, is a retired ambassador and an expert on Pakistan who until recently was an adviser to the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The officials said that after the F.B.I. searches, Ms. Raphel was put on leave and her contract was allowed to expire.

The nature of the investigation is unclear, but officials said the F.B.I. was trying to determine why Ms. Raphel apparently brought classified information home, and whether she had passed, or was planning to pass, the information to a foreign government.
F.B.I. counterintelligence agents have a broad mandate — including tracking foreign spies inside the United States, investigating American citizens suspected of spying for other nations, and examining the mishandling of classified information.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation, did not give details about why they were examining Ms. Raphel’s activities. Nor did they say whether she was officially a target of the investigation. It is extremely rare for the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into such a prominent Washington figure. Any decision by the Justice Department to open the inquiry would have had to take into account that an investigation — whatever its outcome — will have a lasting impact on Ms. Raphel’s ability in the future to operate within American diplomatic circles. One official said on Friday that Ms. Raphel had been stripped of her security clearances as part of the investigation.

Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that the department was “cooperating with our law enforcement colleagues on this matter.” “Ms. Raphel’s appointment expired,” Ms. Psaki said. “She is no longer a department employee.”
Andrew Rice, a spokesman for Ms. Raphel, said that she had not been informed whether she was a target of the investigation, adding that “her nearly 40 years of public service at the highest levels of U.S. diplomacy speak for themselves.”“I’m confident this will be resolved,” Mr. Rice said.

The Washington Post first reported the investigation on its website Thursday night.
Ms. Raphel, 67, is a fixture in Washington foreign policy circles and is one of the State Department’s highest-ranking female diplomats. She served as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration. The 9/11 Commission interviewed Ms. Raphel about her experiences dealing with Pakistan’s government and about her official meetings with the Afghan Taliban.

According to the commission’s report, Ms. Raphel “noted how Washington used one ideology, radical Islam, to defeat another, communism, in Afghanistan.” “This, she cautioned, while successful in the short run, came back to haunt the U.S.,” the report said. “As a result, policy makers should consider the dangers when working with highly ideological movements.” Ms. Raphel retired from the Foreign Service in 2005 and joined Cassidy & Associates, a firm that has done lobbying work for the government of Pakistan.

In 2009, the American Embassy in Pakistan hired her to help administer billions of dollars of development aid to the country. She returned to Washington in 2011 as a senior adviser on Pakistan issues for the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 1988, Ms. Raphel’s former husband, Arnold L. Raphel, then the American ambassador to Pakistan, was killed in a mysterious plane crash with Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, the president of Pakistan. There are numerous theories about the cause of the crash, including that it was an assassination and that nerve gas in a canister hidden in a crate of mangoes was dispersed in the plane’s air-conditioning system.


News of the investigation into Ms. Raphel was greeted with apprehension in Islamabad, where she is viewed by many as one of the few American officials sympathetic toward Pakistan’s government, which has had a turbulent relationship with Washington since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. There was even speculation that Pakistan’s adversaries — whether Indian officials or powerful Indian-Americans living in the United States — had played a part in helping to open the investigation. Najam Sethi, a political analyst and talk-show host on GEO TV, said Ms. Raphel “was friendly toward Pakistan, a reason she was disliked in India.” “This is not a good development for Pakistan,” he said.


American investigators launched an  espionage investigation of former U.S. diplomat  Robin L. Raphel following the interception of  a conversation earlier in 2014 in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a ‘prominent former State Department diplomat’, according to a report in New York Times.
Ms. Raphel was secretly spied upon for months by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and in October, it raided the former diplomat’s residence to discover classified information, the report quoted U.S officials as saying.
She has been  stripped of her security clearances last month and no longer has access to the State Department building.
Ms. Raphel, aged 67, is considered one of the leading American experts on Pakistan with  a distinguished career spanning four decades.   She rose to become one of the highest-ranking female diplomats and a fixture in foreign policy circles, serving as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration.
In 1988, Ms. Raphel’s former husband, Arnold L. Raphel, then the American ambassador to Pakistan, was killed in a mysterious plane crash with the president of Pakistan, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.
Ms. Raphel is among a generation of diplomats who rose through the ranks of the State Department at a time when Pakistan was among America’s closest allies and a reliable bulwark against the Soviet Union. After retiring from the government in 2005, she lobbied on behalf of the Pakistani government before accepting a contract to work as a State Department adviser, says the report.
She has has not been charged with a crime. The scope of the investigation is not known, and it is unclear exactly what the Pakistani official said in the intercepted conversation that led to suspicion about Ms. Raphel. It is also not clear whether the conversation was by telephone, email or some other form of communication, adds the report.