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State Department official recalled
“Hopson’s claim makes little sense as no one knew that law enforcement agents would be inspecting either his office or the boxes prior to the classified documents being discovered,” Mr. Becton wrote. The agent also noted that the cables originated from previous posts where Mr. Hopson had served; one was attached to a personal e-mail.
It was not the only time Mr. Hopson would be at a loss to explain being caught with documents he was not supposed to have. In 2009, investigators found two confidential cables addressed to U.S. embassies in his shipping boxes. Neither of the cables required him to print and retain copies, the affidavit said.
Mr. Hopson said during the interview that when he was assigned in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 2006 there were not enough desks so he worked in an abandoned annex building for two years.
Last June, he left that post a week earlier than scheduled without certifying that he was not taking classified material. DSS and OIG agents were investigating visa fraud at the embassy at the time and discovered that Mr. Hopson was storing classified information in his unauthorized work space. The affidavit said when his supervisor told him to relocate to a secure facility, he failed to comply.
After Mr. Hobson left for his new post in Pretoria, South Africa, a search of his work space revealed a sensitive DEA document and a “confidential” State Department cable in an unlocked desk drawer. The affidavit said the DEA document detailed “an ongoing undercover operation that Hopson had no reason to have in his possession.”
A 2009 OIG report described Port of Spain as “an exceptionally attractive transshipment point for drugs.” The report said the DEA has a six-person embassy team “to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking networks.”
The report also said the embassy’s facilities “do not further a sense of team or collective activity, either on or off the job,” adding that “for decades, the department has found it difficult to attract quality officers to small islands where service can be mind-numbing and perceived as inconsequential to Washington.”
Investigators learned that Mr. Hopson had shipped four boxes from Port of Spain to Pretoria. Inside one, they found eight classified State Department cables, two of which related to intelligence matters and national defense. Search of another revealed two more “confidential” cables, neither of which would have required Mr. Hopson to print copies.
At an interview with DSS investigators in September, Mr. Hopson initially said he had “dumped” the contents of his personnel files into the shipping boxes. Later, he “changed his story and said that he had, in fact, looked through the documents before putting them in the boxes.”
Mr. Hopson further said he had no idea how the cables got into his boxes, and speculated that he was set up. He called the discovery of the documents “very suspicious … especially the quantity of the documents found.”
As for the documents found in the annex building, Mr. Hopson told investigators he had not worked in that space immediately before his departure, he did not store classified material there, other personnel had access to the area, and he had completely cleaned out his desk when he left.
A week after the State Department suspended Mr. Hopson’s security clearance, monitors observed him pack his belongings to return to the U.S. A final search of one those boxes contained two more classified cables. He said he was using the documents for training purposes.
In a written statement he gave to investigators last September, Mr. Hopson “volunteered that he ‘in no way sold or gave any classified or unclassified documents to anyone not cleared to see them’ …” the affidavit said.
About the Author
Jeffrey Anderson is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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