An Intercepted Conversation Led To One Of The Most Prominent People In DC Being Investigated For Espionage

AP523990734379AP/Dennis CookIn this April 7, 2004 file photo, Robin Raphel, coordinator of the State Department’s Office of Iraq Reconstruction, discusses the U. N.’s Oil for Food Program on Capitol Hill.

An intercepted conversation of a Pakistani official spurred the high-profile investigation of a veteran diplomat, according to a front-page New York Times report Friday.

The report, citing unnamed officials, did not specify the details of that conversation and the diplomat, Robin Raphel, has not been accused of a crime.

However, the investigation led to an FBI raid on her home last month, where authorities found classified information.

That development stunned much of the foreign policy establishment, in which Raphel is a fixture and one of the highest-ranking female diplomats. A former ambassador and assistant secretary of state for South Asian affair, Raphel was considered one of the foremost experts on Pakistan.

“Her longstanding relations with Pakistan’s government have also made her an object of scorn in India, the bitter rival of Pakistan, and a country that has grown closer to the United States during both the Bush and Obama administrations,” the Times report read. “The Indian news media has aggressively covered the espionage case in recent weeks, with The Times of India describing Ms. Raphel as a ‘brazenly pro-Pakistan partisan in Washington’ with a ‘pathological dislike for India which she did little to conceal.'”

Meanwhile, the State Department has sought to distance itself from Raphel. According to the Washington Post, which first broke the story of the investigation, Raphel was working for the department at the time of the raid “on renewable, limited contracts that depended in part on her security clearances.”

“We are aware of this law enforcement matter,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “The State Department has been cooperating with our law enforcement colleagues.”

Raphel’s spokesman has said that she has not been told by authorities that she’s being investigated.

“Nothing has changed for Ambassador Raphel,” the spokesman, Andrew Rice, told the Times. “She has not been told she is the target of an investigation, and she has not been questioned.”

Another strange foreign policy incident is also linked to Raphel’s past. In 1988, Raphel’s former husband and then-ambassador to Pakistan, Arnold Raphel, died in a plane crash with the president of Pakistan, Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq.

“The cause of the crash was never determined, spawning numerous theories, including that it was an assassination and that nerve gas in a canister hidden in a crate of mangoes had been dispersed in the plane’s air-conditioning system,” the Times noted.

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