In contrast to his original story, Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy informed investigators this week that he was aware his agents had accessed private information in retaliation against the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
During an apology to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Dir. Clancy told the congressman that he had been aware of the sensitive information days before it was leaked to the media but had forgotten about it. Instead of embarrassing the congressional chairman, the Secret Service merely emphasized the need for more oversight to reign in the petulant agency.
During a March 24 House hearing, Rep. Chaffetz reprimanded Clancy and the agency after two Secret Service agents were caught on surveillance video driving drunk into an active bomb investigation. Instead of allowing law enforcement officials to arrest the agents or determine their blood alcohol content, a Secret Service supervisor simply decided to send them home.
Immediately after the embarrassing hearing, 45 Secret Service agents from nearly every layer of the agency, including senior headquarters offices, the president’s protective detail, and the office of investigations, violated federal privacy law by accessing a restricted database and pulling up sensitive information on Chaffetz. After discovering that Chaffetz had applied to the Secret Service over a decade ago but was rejected, the agents shared the disparaging information with their colleagues while creating posters mocking the oversight chairman.
On March 31, Edward Lowery, the Assistant Director of the Office of Training, wrote in an email to a fellow director, “Some information that he [Chaffetz] might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”
Two days later, The Daily Beast published an article about Chaffetz’s rejected application to the agency after the Secret Service illegally leaked the information to the media. While conducting an investigation, John Roth, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, found that 18 supervisors, including assistant directors, the deputy director, and even Clancy’s chief of staff knew the information was being widely shared through agency offices. But Roth’s report stated that Clancy was completely ignorant of the actions of his agents.
While apologizing to Chaffetz during a recent phone call, Clancy admitted that he had learned about the rejected job application days before it was leaked to the public but had forgotten about it. Instead of investigating the illegal security breaches, Clancy dismissed the accusations as “speculative rumor.”
In a statement to The Washington Post, Clancy wrote, “It was not until later that I became aware that this rumor had developed as Agency employees had used an Agency database to gain access to this information.”
Unfortunately for Clancy, his statement does not make any sense. His agents could not have known Chaffetz’s application had been rejected unless they illegally accessed the database. The fact that the agency knew private information about the oversight chairman meant that his people had breached the restricted database.
Although Clancy initially told investigators that he was unaware of the incident before it was leaked to the media, the director decided to revise his account this week. Claiming that he now remembers a top deputy had informed him about his agents spreading the sensitive information, Clancy says that he simply forgot about the issue until it became public a week later. According to officials, investigators from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office plan to reinterview Clancy concerning his memory lapse.
The current controversy surrounding the agency is merely the most recent in a litany of abuse and misconduct. On April 15, a Florida postal worker protesting against weakened campaign finance reform laws also inadvertently pointed out a massive security lapse by landing his gyrocopter on White House grounds. A Secret Service manager was put on leave with his security clearance suspended after a female employee accused him of sexually assaulting her at agency headquarters in March.
On October 1, 2014, former Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned after lying to congressional members regarding her failure to disclose all security breaches to President Obama. On September 19, 2014, Iraq war veteran Omar Gonzalez leapt over the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and broke into the White House equipped with a three-inch serrated knife. During a visit to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention three days earlier, President Obama entered an elevator accompanied by an armed private contractor with three convictions for assault and battery.
In May 2013, Secret Service supervisor Ignacio Zamora left a bullet in a woman’s hotel room and attempted to force his way back into the room to retrieve it. In March 2013, three members of the Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team were placed on paid administrative leave after one of them was found passed out drunk in a hallway by hotel staff in Amsterdam. Days before President Obama’s arrival to the international summit in Cartagena in 2012, multiple Secret Service and DEA agents were caught purchasing prostitutes in Colombia.
“Again they are demonstrating why we need to conduct thorough oversight of their agency,” Chaffetz stated. “Their culture is reprehensible.”