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Updated Aug 29, 2023, 8:19am EDT
securityNorth America

New details emerge about suspended diplomat Robert Malley’s security clearance

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The News

The case of Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s suspended special envoy on Iran, keeps getting stranger.

On Sunday, an Iranian state news outlet, the Tehran Times, published what appears to be a highly sensitive State Department document. In an April 21st letter to Malley, the director of the Department’s Diplomatic Security Office, Erin E. Smart, informed the diplomat that, for the time being at least, he couldn’t be trusted with handling classified U.S. government documents and intelligence.

Her office “received information regarding you that raises serious security concerns and can be disqualifying” under a number of U.S. government guidelines, Smart wrote, according to the published copy of the letter. She added: “Your national security eligibility, including your Top Secret security clearance, is suspended pending an ongoing investigation.”

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The publishing of the letter in an Iranian news organ, and the State Department’s refusal to comment on it, raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill and across Washington on Monday. Republican lawmakers have been demanding answers on Malley’s status — without success — ever since he announced in late June that he’d been suspended and had his security clearance revoked. The timing of the Diplomatic Security Office’s letter is raising questions on Capitol Hill of whether Malley continued to perform some of his duties as special envoy even after the revocation of his security clearance. A spokesman for the Department on Monday told Semafor: “We have nothing further to share at this time due to privacy considerations,” but didn’t challenge the authenticity of the letter.

Malley, rather than fading into the shadows after the April letter, however, has maintained his presence in diplomatic and academic circles — again raising questions about his future and status. On August 10th, he messaged from his private X account praise for a prisoner swap the U.S. government initiated with Iran, and which he played a part in negotiating. Princeton University also announced this month that Malley will be a visiting professor teaching diplomacy during the fall term, even as the FBI investigates him.

Staffers on Capitol Hill are also raising concerns about the Iranian government’s access to State Department communications and deliberations. The Tehran Time’s article is just the latest in a string of scoops the outlet has published about the Malley affair, including U.S. government documents, audio recordings of the diplomat, and dates and reasons tied to his departure. So far, most have proven to be accurate.

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“The State Department needs to do a top to bottom security review, because I’m concerned they have a leak,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement Monday night.

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