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Spying case against pro-Pakistan diplomat fizzling out: Report

Investigators have not found anything to charge the official, Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state in charge of the desk dealing with India and Pakistan, with spying.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2015 10:14 IST
Yashwant Raj
The case “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”, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The case “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”, The New York Times reported Saturday.(Representational photo)

Investigation against a former top state department official for allegedly spying for Pakistan is reported to “have all but fizzled” out almost a year after becoming public last fall.

Investigators have not found anything to charge the official, Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state in charge of the desk dealing with India and Pakistan, with spying.

The case “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”, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The report did not say what information investigators found from Raphel’s home, which could be used to charge her with mishandling classified or sensitive information.

After retiring from 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 didn’t 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 timeframe, as we all here know.”

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

It was as adviser that she became a target of a spying investigation when American officials eavesdropping on a Pakistani official intercepted conversation in which she seemed to be passing on American 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 to 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.