Acting CIA watchdog up for top job resigns

July 20, 2018 - 3:59 pm

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — The acting watchdog at the CIA, who has been accused of retaliating against whistleblowers, is resigning, the agency confirmed Friday.

Christopher Sharpley, whose nomination for the inspector general post had stalled in the Senate, said in a memo to employees that he is stepping down within 30 days.

CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani said in a statement the agency was grateful to Sharpley for his service, "including his work to professionalize" the office. Sharpley has 36 years of investigative and law enforcement experience and created two inspectors general offices within the government.

"After three decades of public service, he has decided to continue his career outside the agency, and we wish him the best in this new chapter," Trapani said. "CIA's commitment to rigorous, independent oversight is unwavering, and the Office of Inspector General will carry on that important mission through the transition."

The announcement did not say why Sharpley decided to resign.

But the Senate wasn't prepared to advance Sharpley's nomination until a resolution to complaints from two former CIA employees-turned-whistleblowers who alleged retaliation, according to a congressional aide who wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

John Tye, executive director of Whistleblower Aid, who is representing two of the complainants alleging retaliation by Sharpley and other senior managers, said there has been discord in the office for years.

"Sharpley figured out he wasn't going to be confirmed and decided to step aside," Tye said.

Representatives for those ex-CIA employees told The Associated Press last year that there has been friction for several years within the inspector general's office, an independent unit created in 1989 to oversee the spy agency.

The office is charged with stopping waste, fraud and mismanagement and promoting accountability through audits, inspections, investigations and reviews of CIA programs and operations — overt and covert.

Members of the Senate intelligence committee asked Sharpley at his confirmation hearing in October about complaints that he and other managers participated in retaliation against CIA workers who alerted congressional committees and other authorities about alleged misconduct.

Sharpley told Congress that he was "unaware of any open investigations on me, the details of any complaints about me." He said he might not know because there is a process providing confidentiality to anyone who wants to file a complaint against government officials.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore, said at the time that they found it hard to believe Sharpley didn't know about the complaints when he testified.

Last November, the two former CIA employees said Sharpley was less than candid when he told Congress that he didn't know about any active whistleblower complaints against him.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, delayed a vote on Sharpley's nomination until the committee could find out more about the whistleblower cases.

One complainant is Jonathan Kaplan, 59, a former special agent and investigator in the inspector general's office who spent 33 years at the CIA. A second is Andrew Bakaj, 35, who worked in that office as a special agent from 2012 to 2015. He was instrumental in developing agency regulations governing whistleblower reprisal investigations.