The Biden administration’s special envoy for Iran has been placed on unpaid leave and had his security clearance suspended pending a review of allegations he may have mishandled classified information, U.S. officials said Thursday.
Rob Malley has led administration efforts to revive the faltering Iran nuclear deal and resolve issues related to detained Americans in Iran but has not been active in his main job for weeks. He told colleagues he was taking extended personal leave for unspecified family reasons.
Two State Department officials said the agency’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security was leading the inquiry, which revolves around Malley’s handling of classified documents. The officials said they learned of Malley’s change in status from paid to unpaid leave on Thursday, shortly after questions about his status were raised at the State Department’s regular afternoon briefing. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to privacy reasons.
Malley did not immediately respond to a query about the situation from The Associated Press but said in a short statement to several other news outlets that he had “been informed that my security clearance is under review.”
“I have not been provided with any further information, but I expect the investigation to be resolved favourably and soon. In the meantime, I am on leave,” he said in that statement.
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said earlier Thursday that Malley officially remains in his post but is on leave and that his deputy, Abram Paley, is currently leading the Iran portfolio as the acting special envoy.
Malley’s whereabouts have raised questions since he skipped a classified congressional briefing on Iran on May 16. At the time, State Department officials told lawmakers that Malley was on “extended personal leave” and suggested that his absence might be related to a family health issue.
Malley, a close personal friend of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, had worked for the International Crisis Group during the Trump administration. In that job, he met on several occasions with Iranians and Palestinian officials with whom U.S. officials are barred from having contact.
During the Obama administration, Malley served as a National Security Council aide and was closely involved in the negotiations over the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.