Edyz Duran: Is the State Dept. a Bigger Security Threat Than Snowden?

News is emerging today that a State Department official named Edyz Duran formerly stationed in Georgetown, Guyana allegedly traded visas for sexual favors and monetary bribes amounting to roughly $15,000. Furthermore, Duran was spotted brokering these corrupt exchanges in a restaurant frequented by many of Guyana's known drug lords, prompting reporters in the small South American nation to question whether Duran was also involved in the intricate human smuggling operations that these drug lords supervise. Should the allegations facing Duran prove true, his reckless willingness to grant visas to individuals of questionable backgrounds in exchange for sexual and monetary bribes presents a shocking breach of American national security that cannot simply be brushed off by the U.S. government as an isolated incident.

In fact, Duran's alleged misconduct actually exemplifies a relatively common counter-intelligence weakness to bribery, sexual entrapment, and betrayal of trust that is exploited by spy agencies throughout the world. As no stranger to espionage, the U.S. government preemptively seeks to protect itself against these types of counter-intelligence weaknesses by putting many of its employees through strenuous background checks designed to weed out individuals with a predisposition to exploitation by either foreign governments or anyone else. These background checks reportedly scrutinize potential employees for traits that include instances of alcohol abuse, financial irresponsibility, general recklessness with the law, or anything else that might make these potential employees more prone to submitting to blackmail, accepting a bribe, or recklessly divulging sensitive government information.

In recent weeks, however, Americans have been continuously reminded that security breaches like Duran's are far more common than many had ever imagined before as leakers like Edward Snowden and PFC Bradley Manning, both of whom passed various levels of the U.S. government's background checks, have captured the media’s long-term attention. Furthermore, CBS News recently publicized an internal report from the U.S. Inspector General's office that chronicled a wide variety of character weaknesses amongst State Department officials who are still working within the government today. This suggests that counter-intelligence vulnerabilities are not simply limited to politically motivated leakers and the regrettable, yet unpreventable, "bad egg" that sometimes slips through the US’s robust background check system. Instead, CBS's report covers a wide variety of misconduct within the State Department, including one unnamed U.S. Ambassador to an "important country" regularly soliciting prostitution in a public park and members of the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security detail patronizing houses of prostitution while on official foreign visits.

Of course, these reckless actions are not as overtly threatening to U.S. national security as voluntarily helping enemies of the state. However, they do constitute a counter-intelligence vulnerability by providing foreign spies or savvy non-state actors with an opportunity to blackmail these individuals in order to extract sensitive information from the U.S. State Department.  In this sense, the U.S. government clearly has — at the very least — a resilient issue with reckless misconduct amongst employees who handle sensitive information, and, in the best interest of national security, must introduce measures to more accurately screen its employees in the future.