In a shocking incident at the CIA headquarters last year, officer trainee Ashkan Bayatpour assaulted a colleague in a secluded stairwell. Bayatpour approached her from behind, wrapped a scarf around her neck, and attempted to kiss her, stating, “There are many uses for this. This is what I want to do to you.” On Wednesday, he was convicted of assault and battery, a case that notably pierced the CIA’s intense secrecy and unfolded in a public courtroom. This case has sparked a broader conversation about sexual misconduct within the agency.
Widespread Sexual Misconduct Cover-up: Recent revelations have seen a surge in complaints against the CIA. Over two dozen women have reported abusive treatment, ranging from sexual assaults to unwanted advances. These women allege that the agency has actively tried to silence them, warning that speaking out could jeopardize their careers and potentially threaten national security. Kristin Alden, an attorney representing some of these women, highlighted the unique challenges faced by victims within intelligence agencies. She noted that the inherent secrecy and use of pseudonyms in intelligence work amplify the fear of retaliation and isolation felt by victims.
Details surrounding Bayatpour’s assault on July 13, 2022, were confirmed by The Associated Press. Despite the victim reporting the incident to the CIA, FBI, and local law enforcement, Bayatpour, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, remained employed. During his conviction, several of the victim’s colleagues were present, visibly emotional. Bayatpour was sentenced to six months’ probation, ordered to surrender any firearms, and instructed to avoid contact with the victim. The CIA has refrained from commenting on any internal disciplinary actions taken against Bayatpour.
The number of complaints regarding sexual harassment and discrimination lodged with the CIA’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity has seen a significant increase, with this year’s numbers already doubling last year’s. This surge in complaints has caught the attention of congressional leaders, prompting them to consider an investigation into the agency’s long-standing failure to address these issues. In response, CIA Director William Burns initiated reforms in May to better handle claims, support victims, and swiftly discipline offenders.