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Editorial: State Dept. must explain sanitized report

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on Jan. 23, 2013. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The State Department should present the United States' best face to the world. Illegal behavior such as hiring prostitutes and committing sexual assault is bad enough, but covering up that sort of thing, as some whistle-blowers allege senior officials did, is even worse. State Department officials must investigate these allegations and hold anyone responsible accountable.

It would be scandalous if a U.S. ambassador routinely ditched his security detail to solicit prostitutes in a public park. Or if a security officer in Beirut sexually assaulted foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. And it certainly would be embarrassing if members of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security team hired prostitutes while on official trips. But it's an outrageous and intolerable betrayal of the public trust if political appointees in the department blocked probes of the incidents and intervened to make sure no mention of them appeared in a State Department inspector general report.

Two former State Department employees say that's exactly what happened. And according to a CBS News report, their allegations were corroborated by a memo from the inspector general that detailed eight examples of investigations that were manipulated or called off, and a draft report that complained probes had been hindered.

A State Department spokeswoman's assertion Monday that the "notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case, in any case, is preposterous" isn't good enough. There were no references to the cases in the March final report from the inspector general on the performance of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. And officials have yet to say who ordered it sanitized and why. Unless they provide answers, Congress should investigate.

Scandals and cover-ups erode trust in the government, and this one could leave people in key jobs abroad vulnerable to coercion by foreign intelligence operatives. That simply can't be allowed.