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SPIA hires Iran envoy with suspended security clearance amid ongoing FBI investigation

robertson 2 Angel Kuo.JPG
Robertson Hall, the home of the School of Public and International Affairs. 
Angel Kuo / The Daily Princetonian

The School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) announced that it hired senior State Department official Robert Malley as a visiting professor and lecturer on Tuesday, Aug. 15. President Joe Biden appointed Malley to be his special envoy to Iran in 2021, but, two months ago, Malley was placed on unpaid leave after his security clearance was revoked amidst an ongoing investigation into his handling of classified materials. Malley’s term as visiting professor will coincide with this leave. 

In a statement to The Daily Princetonian, Malley wrote, “I will remain on leave from the State Department.  As I have said from the outset of the review of my security clearance, I have absolute faith that the matter will be resolved favorably and I will return to government service in due course."


In the meantime, he wrote, "I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with the next generation of public servants at the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and very much look forward to my time there.”

It is unclear what led to the investigation, and no information has been publicly released shedding light on the matter. 

Ted Cruz ’92 spoke out on X, formerly known as Twitter, about Malley’s hiring. “Pitiful. Look who my alma mater just made a prof,” he posted.

Malley continued to do State Department work for weeks after his clearance was suspended, including taking phone calls and fielding media interviews in May. The decision to suspend Malley’s security clearance was not initially communicated widely within the State Department or across the Biden administration. The department kept him in his role and made no official announcements about replacing him until June 29.


After reports that Malley was being investigated by the FBI on the matter, Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) sent a letter with a group of Republicans on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations urging the State Department’s Office of Inspector General to investigate whether officials at the department followed applicable laws and rules while suspending Malley’s security clearance.

In a letter from Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he wrote that “[t]he Department’s failure to inform Congress of this matter demonstrates at best a lack of candor, and at worst represents deliberate and potentially unlawful misinformation.” He added that “[g]iven the gravity of the situation, it is imperative that the Department expeditiously provide a full and transparent accounting of the circumstances surrounding Special Envoy Malley’s clearance suspension and investigation and the Department’s statements to Congress regarding Special Envoy Malley.” 

Malley, who has worked in the State Department under three administrations, was the lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal and served as the National Security Council’s ISIS czar under the Obama administration. In addition, he founded and directed the International Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program and was a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

At Princeton, he will teach a graduate course on decision making in foreign policy this fall and, in the Spring, he will teach at least one undergraduate course focused on diplomacy, negotiation, and foreign policy.

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“Rob Malley’s significant diplomatic experience and interactions with multiple presidential administrations will be of enormous value to our students,” SPIA Dean Amaney Jamal said in the University announcement. “I am very happy to welcome him to the School and look forward to his contributions.”

Julian Hartman-Sigall is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

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