Voice of America freelancer arrested on spying charges in Poland wasn’t given security clearance, agency says

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The Voice of America freelance journalist being held in Poland on suspicion of being a Russian spy was not given any security clearance, the agency said Tuesday.

Pablo González, a Russian-born Spaniard who recently did freelance work for the taxpayer funded U.S. international news organization, was arrested on Feb. 28 by Poland’s Internal Security Agency on charges of spying for Russia’s foreign military intelligence service. He faces 10 years in prison and the agency said he would be held for three months.

A VOA spokesperson said González had, according to its records, posted only six stories for the agency, the last one in 2021, but he had also contributed to a recent Ukraine segment as a camera operator. However, the agency said due to his freelance status, no background investigation was conducted on him since he wouldn’t have access to federal IT systems.

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“In short, as a matter of relevant federal rules, such background investigations are not available for freelancers (or any other contractors) who don’t access federal IT systems or facilities,” a spokesperson told Fox News Digital.

The spokesperson added VOA never provided or lent him any equipment. The agency said this week that it was “thoroughly reviewing” his past stories for VOA and has scrubbed its website of his past work.

González was initially questioned while working in Ukraine – he also freelances for Spanish outlets La Sexta and Público – and was asked to leave the country before traveling back to Poland to report on the Ukrainian refugee influx there after Russia’s invasion. Spanish intelligence agents also questioned people in his circle in northern Spain during his interrogation in Ukraine, according to reports.

Press watchdogs like the Committee to Project Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have taken up his cause, arguing he is being unfairly held. His wife Oihana Goiriena told Reuters last week that he was only being charged for being an “inconvenient” journalist.

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Público published audio Tuesday of González expressing bewilderment at the accusations by Ukraine of being a spy, before he traveled back to Poland. He appeared to suggest that much of the surrounding suspicion is because he has Russian family connections.

“I don’t know what they are going to invent, what they are going to explain,” he said, according to a translation, later adding, “Then they come out with that song, that I was born in Russia, well yes … They have gone to everyone with the same mantra, presenting me as a pig who uses everyone as cover.”

Michael Pack, who oversaw VOA as the former CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, was warned of severe vetting concerns inside the department when he took over in the final year of the Trump administration. He was unaware of the specifics surrounding González, having been pushed out of the agency in 2021 when President Biden took office.

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In addition to producing digital content, VOA broadcasts radio and TV programming around the world. While journalistically independent, it and its fellow outlets under the umbrella of the U.S. Agency for Global Media – Office of Cuba Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – historically have used their platforms to promote American values of freedom and democracy.

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