Raphel would never compromise American interests: Lawyer

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Oct 12, 2015 14:22 IST
Robin Raphel, during a senate foreign relations committee hearing. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP Photo)

A former top US diplomat, who is alleged to have spied on behalf of Pakistan, would never do anything “intentionally” to compromise American interests, her lawyer said on Sunday.

The official, Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state in charge of South Asia and later adviser on Pakistan, has been under investigation for over a year.

“Ambassador Raphel is a highly respected career diplomat who has dedicated her life to serving the United States and its interests. She would never intentionally do anything to compromise those interests. We are confident that she will be cleared of any suspicion,” Raphel’s lawyer, Amy Jeffress, told Hindustan Times in a statement.

The New York Times reported on Saturday investigators have not found any evidence of spying yet, and may settle for a lesser charge of mishandling sensitive information, if at all.

The Times said case against Raphel “has all but fizzled, leaving the justice department to decide whether to prosecute (the official) for the far less serious charge of keeping classified information in her home”. It did not say, however, what had investigators found from Raphel’s home, which could be used to charge her with mishandling classified or sensitive information.

After retiring from the government, Raphel, 67, joined a DC lobbying firm that had Pakistan among its clients. She returned to state as adviser on Pakistan around 2009. As assistant secretary of state and later adviser, Raphel acquired a reputation as a supporter of Pakistan, which made her immediately suspect in the eyes of Indian officials.

In fact, she probably did not care.

“As I said, we view Kashmir as a disputed territory,” she told a group of Indian journalists in DC in 1993, then as assistant secretary of state.

“We do not recognise. … that instrument of accession as meaning that Kashmir is forevermore an integral part of India. And there are many issues at play in that time frame, as we all here know.”

Some even in American viewed her relationship with Pakistan with suspicion, as has been reported by US media.

It was as an adviser that she came under investigation when US officials eavesdropping on a Pakistani official intercepted a conversation in which she seemed to be passing on secrets. The investigation became public last fall when her home and offices were searched by federal officials and her security clearance at the state department was revoked.

A regular figure around DC’s think-tanks specially at Pakistan-related events, Raphel dropped out of public sight. But only for a while, she was back soon enough.

The case against her was not going too well for investigators, it now transpires according to the NYT report, which essentially says they have found nothing to charge her with spying.

In negotiations with the government, Raphel “rejected plea deals and has been adamant that she face no charges”, the Times said, citing current and former government officials. Her case, the report said, fits a pattern of federal officials “bringing an espionage investigation into the public eye, only to see it dissipate under further scrutiny”.

A case against a Chinese-origin physicist charged with passing off sensitive information to China was dropped in September, and another one against a government hydrologist fell earlier.

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