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Federal agencies allege toxic work environment for women in new report



FBI CJIS in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Staff photo.

Federal agencies allege toxic work environment for women in new report


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Women of the intelligence community, as well as law enforcement, are treated differently than their male counterparts, according to recently released public records from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Not only are they allegedly treated differently, they are allegedly exposed to a toxic culture of sexual harassment, threats and intimidation.

The open records request was made by former employees of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).

The watchdog group says numerous reports from former FBI employees prompted Empower Oversight to request records through FOIA “to shed light on possible FBI wrongdoing as well as law enforcement policy, specifically sexual harassment, threats and intimidation against employees, and the FBI exempting high-level executives from mandatory retirement when those executives have allegedly engaged in misconduct.”

The problems don’t stop there. The Washington Post reported in the 1990s one out of three women working as case officers at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) allege the agency’s clandestine service discriminated against women in promotions, country assignments and spying tasks.

Since then the female CIA employee has also filed a federal lawsuit alleging the CIA retaliated against her for reporting her sexual assault claim to local police and relaying her experience to lawmakers in a closed-door congressional hearing.

In 2023, The Associated Press reported at least two-dozen women have come forward with complaints of abusive treatment within the CIA, telling authorities and Congress not only about sexual assaults, unwanted touching and coercion but of what they contend is a campaign by the spy agency to keep them from speaking out, with dire warnings it could wreck their careers and even endanger national security.

In February of 2024, NBC News reported the CIA terminates employee who accused the spy agency of retaliating over her sexual assault claim.

The EEOC has received a flood of complaints against the CIA for discrimation against women and harassment, according to The Associated Press.

Complaints to the CIA’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity about sexual harassment and discrimination in 2023 have already doubled last year’s total, detailing 76 separate incidents.

According to the requestors of the FBI documents, “the agency is being used as a personal fiefdom for the Assistant Director by rewarding women with whom he appears to have engaged in inappropriate relationships, among other concerns.”

According to Empower Oversight, a whistleblowers organization, the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) serves as “a critical tool for local and state law enforcement, as well as national security and intelligence community partners.” CJIS houses multiple data services for every police department and law enforcement agency in the United States.

“Despite CJIS’s crucial mission, Empower Oversight has obtained information from whistleblowers that suggests CJIS is suffering from a lack of oversight. Most recently, Assistant Director (AD) Michael Christman has allegedly run CJIS as a personal fiefdom to reward those loyal to him. Not only is this an improper use of taxpayer dollars, it also risks undermining CJIS’s many programs and the missions they serve,” Empower Oversight President Tristan Leavitt wrote in a letter requesting records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Former federal employees said Christman allegedly promoted multiple women with whom he appears to have engaged in inappropriate relationships.

“For instance, former employees have reported to Empower Oversight that AD Christman and a female CJIS employee were observed in a state of undress on a Saturday night in the CJIS gymnasium. That female employee has been promoted quickly,” whistleblowers said.

According to a copy of the report obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Christman also maintained employment with the FBI after his mandatory retirement age.

“He began attending college in 1983, suggesting that he was born in 1965 or 1966. That would make him about 58- or 59-years old today. Yet under 5 U.S.C. § 8335(b)(1), a federal law enforcement officer “shall be separated from the service on the last day of the month in which that officer … becomes 57 years of age or completes 20 years of service if then over that age,” the report states.

According to the report, Christman joined the FBI as a special agent in 1992, and had more than 20 years of service when he turned 57 years old, when he was supposed to be separated from the FBI.

The organization noted among other “improprieties,” Christman also allegedly claimed to have nightly phone calls with a female employee who did not report directly to him. She was subsequently provided awards and monetary compensation.

Leavitt noted in his letter after Christman was challenged on his behavior, he allegedly retaliated by threatening to move CJIS from its current location in West Virginia.

He has also allegedly retaliated against employees by moving them into temporary positions for “cross-training,” similar to Empower Oversight’s client Monica Shillingburg ,who had made protected disclosures about the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System while Christman served as a deputy assistant director of CJIS.

“On returning to CJIS as AD, Christman took retaliatory action against Ms. Shillingburg, transferring her from a Unit Chief position to a non-supervisory position in another section. Empower Oversight has filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint on her behalf with the Department of Justice Inspector General,” Leavitt wrote in the letter.

The FBI did not response to the Wisconsin Law Journal’s request for comment.


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