Senior intel official sexually harassed woman at work, report finds

by Tommy Grant

The former director of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency persistently sexually harassed a subordinate over a period of more than a year, according to a Defense Department Inspector General investigation released in December. The report also revealed several incidents of unlawfully disclosing security clearance information, engaging in unauthorized political activity at work and drinking alcohol in the office without authorization.

The overall conduct of William Lietzau created a toxic work environment, the IG report said, as he not only reportedly harassed the subordinate, but created the perception within the office that he favored her and that the two were having an affair. Lietzau, however, will face no consequences, as he retired in October after a nearly 40-year career that included time as a Marine Corps infantry officer, a judge advocate and a civilian intelligence official.

“As I have said several times under oath, although I foolishly made myself vulnerable to some of these allegations, I did not commit any of the offenses alleged against me in this report,” Lietzau told Military Times on Wednesday. “The report recounts a false narrative and omits countless facts that do not support that narrative.”

The inspector general investigation began in spring 2021 with an anonymous complaint to the IG hotline about Lietzau’s reported sexual harassment of a member of his staff, along with a host of other infractions. The staff member had documented nearly two years of harassment, including text messages, recorded phone calls and multiple memorandums for record during particularly troubling incidents.

The first of those incidents occurred when, after a weekly staff check-in call in Lietzau’s hotel room as the two were traveling on business, Lietzau climbed on top of the subordinate, according to the report. Both parties told investigators she made clear she was not interested in an intimate relationship.

Lietzau’s written statements and interview statements explain that he thought the subordinate had been coming onto him for months, based on her behavior and how she dressed in the office, and that the temptation of her being in his hotel room was too much to overcome.

Witnesses interviewed recalled Lietzau repeatedly looking the woman up and down in front of others in the office, and recounted multiple disclosures from her that Lietzau made her uncomfortable to the point that she was avoiding being alone with him at work.

“He acknowledged his behavior when he told her, ‘And if you want to hear me say — and I crossed the line anyway and I shouldn’t have, sure. I’ll say that and take full responsibility. I have no excuses for that,’” according to the report. “He further demonstrated his awareness that his harassment contributed to the workplace perception that he was having an affair with her.”

The staff member described the encounter as traumatic, and while she tried to move on and continue a more normal working relationship with Lietzau, she realized a year later, after he confessed his love for her, that the situation could not be remedied.

The investigation also found evidence of his repeated disparagement of women, including one such incident during a promotion ceremony for the staff member, when he quipped that she must be extraordinary because he otherwise wouldn’t have picked her over a man.

An IG search of his emails turned up additional sexist comments.

“Although her official claim is that she has a higher pain threshold because she has been through childbirth—total bulls**t, but commonly used by the weaker gender,” he wrote in an email responding to someone asking about his wife’s health.

In another email from a colleague who had received a mentoring request from a man with a name Lietzau deemed feminine, Lietzau responded, “Mentor him to change his name to be more aligned with being a he….”

Emails also showed that Lietzau violated the Privacy Act when he disclosed security clearance status information while trying to help his brother and sister-in-law get jobs with the federal government.

The search then uncovered emails Lietzau sent rating and reviewing the 2020 presidential election candidates, describing Donald Trump as “narcissistic” and Joe Biden as “corrupt,” messages that violated DOD policy on political activities while serving in an official capacity.

Lietzau told Military Times “it is disingenuous to claim that an email from my office computer was an attempt to use my official position to influence the election without mentioning that it was sent to my children on a Sunday during the single week that I connected that computer to my home network because I had COVID.”

However, during the investigation, Lietzau admitted to sending emails with his political opinions to two subordinates as well.

The IG also found that he asked his subordinates to help him coordinate extracurricular activities with the International Christian Concern, a request against policies on subordinate duties.

And finally, Lietzau admitted to drinking alcohol, and encouraging subordinates to drink, in the office without required written authorization. Lietzau insisted that he was the authorizer, and so he did not need to make a formal request to have it approved.

Overall, Lietzau’s interviews with the IG and rebuttals to the findings reflect either a different recollection of events or no memory of them as they were revealed.

“The substantiation of false allegations does not benefit the cause of ending sexual harassment or any other worthy government purpose,” Lietzau said. “I have fully accepted responsibility for mistakes I made, but I will not admit to false allegations found in this report.”

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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