Wednesday, September 27, 2023

An Iran mouthpiece’s ‘scoop’ draws Republican ire.

Republican lawmakers are calling for the State Department to probe how the Tehran Times, an Iranian state-run media outlet, obtained a purported memo informing U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley that his security clearance was suspended.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Mike McCaul (R-Texas), said Monday in a statement that Foggy Bottom “needs to do a top to bottom security review, because I am concerned they have a leak.”

McCaul also touched on concerns that the Tehran Times has again obtained information that has eluded lawmakers who have demanded to know more about an ongoing investigation into Malley, which involves questions about whether he should be allowed to handle classified information. Last month, McCaul threatened to subpoena the State Department for details of the case.

“If this memo is authentic, it is extremely concerning, especially since this is not the first time the Iranian regime’s mouthpiece has appeared to have sensitive U.S. government information recently while Congress is kept in the dark,” McCaul said.

Close observers of Iran believe the English-language Tehran Times is controlled by hardline Iranian government factions. The outlet published several stories in recent months that appear to put it ahead of other media, including Washington outlets, on the Malley case.

The media outlet reported Sunday — based on what it claimed was an April 21 memo from a top State Department diplomatic security official to Malley — that Malley’s top secret clearance was suspended over “serious security concerns” related to his “personal conduct,” “handling of protected information” and “use of information technology.”

It published what it said was the memo, which is labeled as “sensitive but unclassified.”

A person familiar with the investigation into Malley who has seen the original memo told POLITICO that the Tehran Times’ version appeared to match that original. Like others contacted for this story, the person was granted anonymity to discuss a highly sensitive topic.

Malley has denied any wrongdoing. He declined to comment Monday.

Republicans have criticized the Biden administration both for temporarily allowing Malley to continue to work in the department after his security clearance was suspended over the investigation and for keeping them in the dark about the probe for several weeks. The FBI is involved in the probe, according to a person familiar with the case.

“I have requested transparency from the State Department on the ongoing Robert Malley saga and will continue to demand answers,” McCaul said. “Regarding this latest chapter, I am very concerned about how the regime got this potentially authentic document and what other sensitive or classified information they may have.”…