A blockbuster report from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) inspector general released today reveals how Secret Service agents illegally accessed the confidential personnel files of a congressman investigating the agency in an attempt to publicly smear him.
According to the report, which was made available to ABC News, nearly four dozen Secret Service agents accessed the secret personnel files of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. The DHS inspector general found that a confidential job application from Chaffetz, who applied for a job with the Secret Service in 2003, was accessed by Secret Service agents a mere 18 minutes into an investigative hearing overseen by Chaffetz:
Employees accessed Chaffetz’s 2003 application for a Secret Service job starting 18 minutes after the start of a congressional hearing in March about the latest scandal involving drunken behavior by senior agents. Some forwarded the information to others. At least 45 employees viewed the file.
One week later, Assistant Director Ed Lowery suggested leaking embarrassing information about Chaffetz in retaliation for aggressive investigations by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into a series of agency missteps and scandals, the report said. Days later, on April 2, the information about Chaffetz unsuccessfully applying for a job at the Secret Service was published by The Daily Beast, an Internet publication.
The Secret Service, until recently assumed to be an elite organization dedicated to protecting the president, has been mired in controversy since 2012 when it was revealed that a large number of Secret Service agents brought Colombian prostitutes back to their hotel rooms while on assignment in Cartagena. The scandal came to light after agents refused to pay the women for their secret services.
In 2014, multiple Secret Service agents were sent home from the Netherlands when one of them was found drunk and passed out in an Amsterdam hotel hallway. The agents were in the country preparing for a visit from President Obama scheduled to occur the next day.
Later, in September of 2014, the Secret Service allowed a knife-wielding gate jumper to not only clear the White House fence, but to find his way into the White House itself. According to the Washington Post, the door to the White House residence was unlocked at the time, and the jumper was barely one flight of stairs away from the first family’s living quarters.
In 2011, the Secret Service, initially unaware that a gunman had fired at the White House, thoroughly botched the investigation of what exactly happened. It took a White House housekeeper, not one of the scores of Secret Service agents dedicated to protecting the president’s life at all costs, to discover the location of and damage from the gunfire. Full details of the incident were not revealed to the public until late 2014.
Last April, a Secret Service supervisor was placed on leave following charges of sexual harassment from a female employee. That scandal came on the heels of news last March that two other agents, suspected of being drunk, literally drove through an active bomb investigation, nearly hitting the suspicious device that was thought to be a bomb.
Chaffetz, the oversight chairman whose personal information was illegally accessed and distributed by Secret Service agents, told ABC News that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) would be in charge of conducting congressional oversight into the Secret Service’s latest scandal.