A former top Pentagon official has been accused of sexually harassing two female colleagues for years, subjecting them to unwanted attention, according to a report released on Wednesday. He even photographed the buttocks of one woman and was photographed giving the other woman massage during "mentoring" sessions.
John James, the accused former top civilian at the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA), retired from the agency in February after a complaint was filed, the military's watchdog agency has found. The report also comes on the heels of a similar incident last year, when the Pentagon watchdog found Guy Roberts, a former top Defense Department civilian, sexually harassed three women on his staff including frequently touching them and making sexual comments.
Senior or Predator?
According to the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, James, who had a 37-year career at the DOD, "engaged in a pattern of misconduct in which he sexually harassed" the two employees from 2012 through 2019. He "repeatedly sought out and made deliberate, unwelcomed physical contact" with one of the two woman "with whom he would normally have little or no professional interaction."
These include asking for her personal cellphone number and also taking a picture of her buttocks as she walked away from him. The Inspector General's office also found that James, during an agency event in 2014, took a photograph of the woman's back on her personal device as she walked to a food tent. Later, the woman deleted it immediately after seeing it and reported it to her supervisor.
However, the allegations don't end here. James on two occasions massaged a second woman behind a closed door in his office while saying, "I love this." The woman broke up the relationship but didn't report the gross conduct as she feared retaliation. She eventually left the agency due to James' behavior, the report noted.
No End to Complaints
The report found that James also made an inappropriate comment on a third employee in 2017. Following this, he also got counseling for his behavior but the harassment continued into 2019. The inspector general's office first received a complaint about James through the MDA in August 2019. The MDA researches, develops and buys missile systems to defend the United States and allies. The inspector general then opened an investigation into the allegations in September 2019.
James did not offer a formal response to the inspector general's findings, although he did speak with investigators and denied taking the photo of the first woman and massaging the second woman. Instead, he blamed the complaints on a disgruntled employee passed over for promotion. "There's a modicum of truth in the interactions, but no intent for sexual harassment, or favors, or anything of that nature," he told investigators.
The 25-page report comprises interviews of 11 witnesses, including the three affected employees. It also reviewed 421,800 emails, messages and other documents as well as government-issued cellphones, tablets and laptops. The latest report is yet another blow to the US military, which has struggled for years to curtail sexual harassment and assault within its ranks and in the Pentagon. Earlier this year, the Pentagon found that incidents of sexual assaults across the military increased by 3 percent in 2019.