By Julian Pecquet
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs panel said Monday he was "appalled" by reports that the State Department sought to quash internal investigations into employee wrongdoing -- and is launching his own probe.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) vowed to bring up with Secretary of State John Kerry allegations that State Department officials -- including an ambassador -- used prostitutes and that department higher-ups might have tried to quash the probes. He has asked his own staff to start investigating.
"I am appalled not only at the reported misconduct itself, but at the reported interference in the investigations of the misconduct," Royce said in a statement. "The notion that any or all of the cases contained in news reports would not be investigated thoroughly by the Department is unthinkable.
"Department interference with the independence of any DSS investigations must be uncovered. I have asked my staff to begin an investigation into these allegations and intend to raise the issue with Secretary Kerry immediately."
CBS reported Monday on a memo outlying the concerns of the State Department Office of Inspector General.
The memo states that the Diplomatic Security Service in 2011 investigated reports that a U.S. ambassador in a sensitive post "routinely ditched" his security detail, possibly in order to "solicit sexual favors from prostitutes." The ambassador was admonished by his superiors, CBS reported, but remained in his post.
The memo also highlights allegations that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail had an "endemic" habit of hiring prostitutes on trips abroad, that a State Department official in Beirut sexually assaulted foreign embassy guards and that an "underground drug ring" near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad supplied State Department contractors with drugs.
The State Department has forcefully denied allegations that it quashed internal investigations involving the use of prostitutes and other misdeeds by agency employees.
"The notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in any case is preposterous," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday.
Royce and ranking member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) wrote to Kerry back in February urging him to press President Obama to name an inspector general for the State Department. The department has lacked a Senate-confirmed IG since January 2008.