FBI employees stationed in cities across Asia have been recalled to Washington while the agency investigates allegations related to parties and interactions with prostitutes, reports the Wall Street Journal. The Justice Department’s inspector general is examining the allegations, which involve FBI personnel in six cities. The FBI said, “Upon learning of these allegations of misconduct, action was taken to reassign certain personnel to non-operational roles while the allegations are reviewed.” The allegations are a potential black eye for an agency that has become a magnet for criticism. The bureau had to reopen a background investigation into now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh after allegations of sexual assault, which he denied. The FBI has been at the center of an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including links to the Trump campaign.
The personal conduct of FBI agents came under scrutiny after the disclosure of anti-Trump text messages between two then-FBI employees who had been involved in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. The latest allegations involve FBI legal attaché offices, or “legats,” based at U.S. embassies in dozens of cities around the world, where agents work with foreign counterparts on terrorism and other crimes. The posts tend to last several years, and often involve cultivating relationships with local officials over late-night drinks. Issues involving prostitution, which is legal or tolerated in some countries, have been a particular concern for FBI officials, who worry about foreign intelligence services trying to compromise agents. Agents going overseas receive extensive briefings on potential avenues foreign officers may seek to compromise them. The exact nature of the allegations against the FBI employees couldn’t be determined. Other law enforcement agencies, including the Secret Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, have dealt with similar scandals in recent years.