By Arshad Mohammed
July 11 (Reuters) – A senior U.S. Republican lawmaker criticized as “absolutely unacceptable” a State Department response on Tuesday to his inquiry about why the U.S. special envoy for Iran‘s security clearance was under review.
Michael McCaul, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs, wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on June 30 seeking “a full and transparent accounting” about an investigation into the envoy, Rob Malley.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official said Malley was put on unpaid leave on June 29 after news broke that his security clearance was under review.
In a response made public by McCaul’s office, Naz Durakoglu the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, said the agency had a “thorough and comprehensive process” to assess an individual’s eligibility to access classified information.
“Consistent with longstanding Executive Branch and Department of State policies and practices, the Department is not in a position to provide further documents or information related to this personnel-security clearance matter,” she said.
McCaul, in a brief statement, said: “This is an absolutely unacceptable response.”
“Congress deserves to know exactly why the U.S. Special Envoy (for) Iran had his security clearance suspended, was then suspended from his position, and now, according to news reports, is being investigated by the FBI,” McCaul added, saying he would ask the agency for a classified briefing next week.
When news that his security clearance was under review broke on June 29, Malley said: “I have been informed that my security clearance is under review. I have not been provided any further information, but I expect the investigation to be resolved favorably and soon. In the meantime, I am on leave.”
In a regular briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesman Matt Miller said Malley “stopped performing the duties” of special envoy for Iran on June 29 and “went on leave “several weeks before that,” but he declined to provide further details.
Appointed soon after Democratic President Joe Biden took office in 2021, Malley had the task of trying to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Then-President Donald Trump, a Republican, had abandoned the pact in 2018 and reimposed U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Having failed to revive the deal, the United States has held talks with Iran to try to ease tensions by sketching out steps that could limit the Iranian nuclear program, release some detained U.S. citizens and unfreeze some Iranian assets abroad, Iranian and Western officials said in June.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Simon Lewis; Writing by Arshad MohammedEditing by Leslie Adler)