US ends case against former envoy accused of spying for Pakistan

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The US Justice Department closed its espionage investigation into a former American diplomat who had been accused of spying for Pakistan, her lawyer said on Monday.

FBI agents raided Robin L Raphel’s home and office in 2014, looking for evidence that she was spying for Islamabad, an accusation which Raphel had denied vehemently.

“It was clear from the outset that this investigation was based on a fundamental misunderstanding,” her lawyer, Amy Jeffress, said in a statement.

“It is of the utmost importance to our national security that our diplomats be able to do their work without fearing that their routine diplomatic communications will subject them to criminal investigation,” she added, according to the New York Times.

No charges were filed against Raphel, Jeffress continued, sharply criticising government officials for revealing details of the investigation to reporters.

The espionage case against Raphel began after US officials intercepted a conversation in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from her. The investigation did not turn out to be very successful and prosecutors were left with no choice but to focus on charges of keeping classified information in her home. Raphel consistently refused plea deals in negotiations with the government.

Raphel maintained close ties with Pakistani officials even during the rough patch in the Pak-US relationship when many other American diplomats decried Pakistan’s duplicity in the fight against terrorism. For decades, she has also been at the center of steering American policy towards Pakistan.

Raphel was recruited by Richard C Holbrooke, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the start of the Obama administration.

“I hope a good American diplomat will now no longer suffer because someone who disliked her leaked the story of inquiries about her prematurely, making her look like a criminal before even filing of charges. Good thing is, the DOJ did the right thing,” said Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington and a friend of Raphel’s.

Earlier, some US investigators were reluctant to end the case against the diplomat even after it became clear that prosecutors would not bring espionage charges. Although taking home classified information is a crime, charges are rarely filed.

Raphel was a former ambassador to Tunisia and she also served as the State Department’s coordinator for reconstruction in Iraq under President George W Bush.

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