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Bad News Pops Secret Services’ Successful Papal, UN Protection Balloon

A trio of high-profile events last week – the U.S. visit of Pope Francis, the state dinner of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the United Nations (UN) General Assembly meeting in New York – required a massive security operation and tested the limits of federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies and personnel.

The U.S. Secret Service was in the middle of it all, and President Obama said that performed its job “flawlessly.”

"They all deserve a huge round of applause for being such great hosts and keeping everybody safe," Reuters quoted the President as saying.

Unfortunately for the Secret Service, a report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General John Roth publicly released this week may spoil the beleaguered agency’s moment in the sun.

The DHS OIG found that 45 Secret Service employees accessed a restricted application file for Jason Chaffetz, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman who had applied to work for the agency in 2003. Chairman Chaffetz (R-UT) had led his committee through three tough oversight hearings earlier this year. Oversight from the same committee last year resulted in the resignation of former Director Julia Pierson.

The IG found that only four employees had “an arguable legitimate need” to pull the Chaffetz personnel files. It also found that 18 Secret Service supervisors, including the acting chief of staff and deputy director of the service, were aware or should have been aware that the protected information had been improperly accessed.

The IG found that Assistant Director Ed Lowery had emailed a colleague about Chaffetz’s application, amidst the committee’s oversight hearings, writing that “some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who promised to investigate the issue of Chaffetz’s personnel history being made public in April, pledged employees would be held accountable.

“The Inspector General has recently completed his investigation, and has found a number of instances of inappropriate conduct by Secret Service personnel. At the time, I stated that if the allegations were true, those responsible should be held accountable, and I reiterate that today,” Secretary Johnson stated.

“With the investigation completed, I am confident that U.S. Secret Service Director Joe Clancy will take appropriate action to hold accountable those who violated any laws or the policies of this Department. I also reiterate the apology I issued in April to Chairman Chaffetz. Activities like those described in the report must not, and will not, be tolerated,” Johnson continued.

Citing the abuse of public trust and sensitive personally identifiable information, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) asked Director Clancy in a letter what administrative or disciplinary action had been taken against Secret Service staff that had violated the Privacy Act, what steps the agency is taking to eliminate or mitigate risks to unauthorized access to personal information, and what steps the Service is taking to ensure misconduct and ethical lapses are reported up the chain of command in a timely manner.

Chairman Chaffetz pledged to not back down with his committee’s investigations into the Secret Service.

“Certain lines should never be crossed. The unauthorized access and distribution of my personal information crossed that line. It was a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me and frankly, it is intimidating,” Chairman Chaffetz stated in reaction to the IG report.

“Chairman Chaffetz and I have worked together to help restore the Secret Service to its standing as the most elite protective agency in the world. Today’s findings by the Inspector General go directly against this goal and are completely and utterly unacceptable and indefensible,” said Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), ranking member of the committee.

 

 

Posted in General News

Tags: Secret Service

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