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The CIA’s recent dismissal of a woman who reported a sexual assault at the agency’s headquarters has ignited a debate over whistleblower retaliation. The woman’s lawyer slammed the CIA’s decision as “a brazen retaliation,” a charge the agency denies, calling it “factually inaccurate.”
The CIA declined to disclose specific reasons for her termination, merely stating, “To be clear, the CIA does not tolerate sexual assault, sexual harassment or whistleblower retaliation,” according to spokesperson Tammy Thorp.
The woman’s termination occurred less than six months after filing a lawsuit alleging the CIA retaliated against her for reporting a stairwell assault in 2022 and testifying in a closed congressional hearing. Her attorney, Kevin Carroll, condemned the CIA’s action, asserting, “The agency’s festering workplace sexual violence problem is now harming the retention of young women who won’t put up with it any longer.”
CIA Director William Burns has since launched reforms to address these issues, but the whistleblower’s firing raises questions about their effectiveness. Legal experts highlight the limitations of whistleblower protections within the CIA, noting the peculiar vulnerabilities of intelligence community employees. Tom Devine, a whistleblower rights advocate, explained, “You can blow the whistle, but only within the intel community. So when she went to the police, she was very much on her own. It’s an obnoxious loophole.”