Ex-CIA watchdog who retaliated against whistleblower part of Jan. 6 panel

A former CIA inspector general found to have retaliated against a whistleblower will be part of the House select committee looking into the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, according to a new report.

David Buckley, the select committee’s staff director, served as CIA Inspector General, the intelligence agency’s watchdog, between October 2010 and January 2015. Buckley’s tenure was best known for his office’s 2014 report revealing that CIA employees improperly spied on Senate staffers prior to the release of a report into alleged torture of detained terrorism suspects.

In 2019, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general revealed that Buckley and other officials in the CIA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) opened a so-called “retaliatory investigation” into Andrew Bakaj, an OIG special agent. That probe uncovered “derogatory information” that led the OIG to place Bakaj on leave and suspend his security clearance.

On Friday, Yahoo News revealed previously unpublished details of the DHS watchdog’s 36-page report examining Bakaj’s allegations that Buckley and others retaliated against him after he was accused of providing information to another investigation.

Bakaj’s complaint stemmed from the aftermath of an April 2014 meeting with Paul Wogaman, a top official in the office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), to assist with an inquiry into the CIA OIG.

The CIA Office of the Inspector General suspended special agent Andrew Bakaj's security clearance and placed him on leave following Buckley's "retaliatory investigation."
The CIA Office of the Inspector General suspended special agent Andrew Bakaj’s security clearance and placed him on leave following Buckley’s “retaliatory investigation.”

After Bakaj’s superiors found out of the meeting with Wogaman, the report says, they began a review of Bakaj’s computer searches and other activities.

That probe, Yahoo reported, found that Bakaj had copied a sensitive CIA file on to his computer. The CIA ultimately concluded the files had not been leaked, and the FBI declined to investigate. During the investigation, Buckley placed Bakaj on administrative leave.

After Bakaj filed a complaint of retaliation, the CIA OIG failed to properly review the matter, leading DHS to get involved, according to the report.

Buckley will lead the House Select committee to investigate the riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

DHS ultimately found that the OIG probe of Bakaj was “a pretext for gathering evidence to use to retaliate against” their own special agent. The report concluded that the CIA should determine “at minimum” whether the security clearances of Buckley and others should be suspended or revoked as a result of their investigation.

It is unclear what, if any action the CIA took in response to the report.

The decision to give Buckley the top staffing job on the Jan. 6 committee was made by Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who is also the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

A committee spokesperson claims Buckley denied taking retaliatory action against Bakaj in when the former inspector general interviewed for the House select committee position.

A spokesperson for the committee told CNN late Friday that Buckley “raised this matter during the Staff Director interview process and denies taking any action against the complainant in retaliation for the employee’s [Bakaj’s] claimed whistleblowing. In his role as CIA Inspector General, Mr. Buckley had no choice but to place the complainant on administrative leave after the CIA’s Office of Security suspended the employee’s clearance.”

Bakaj’s attorney, Mark Zaid told CNN in a statement of his own that the committee’s response was “incredibly insulting.”

“Andrew is one of the leading attorneys in the United States in representing whistleblowers,” Zaid wrote. “He worked at both DoD and CIA OIG and helped write the CIA’s whistleblower policies. And he handled one of the most important and sensitive national security whistleblower cases of the 21st century. We expect better from the Committee and its leadership.”

The committee, which is made up of eight House members — seven Democrats and GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — will hold its first hearing on Tuesday with eyewitness testimony from four law enforcement officers about the riot.

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