One Secret Service agent resigned and forty others have received “some level” of discipline after they illegally accessed background information on Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz. The intended purpose of the background inquiries were to find embarrassing information on Rep. Chaffetz that could be used to retaliate against him by smearing his name publicly.
Although he doesn’t seem to have received any level of discipline, Secret Service Assistant Director Ed Lowery encouraged the illegal searches, stating in an email that “some information [Chaffetz] finds embarrassing needs to get out.” Ironically enough, the identity of the specific agents disciplined for violating the Privacy Act cannot be named publicly because that would violate the Privacy Act.
Pretty convenient (wink, wink).
When Rep. Jason Chaffetz began asking the Secret Service about its string of high-profile failures, agents were quick to respond… with attempts to undermine the Congressman’s credibility. Eighteen minutes after the hearings started, Secret Service agents — dozens of them — began poring through his 2003 Secret Service application in hopes of finding a few skeletons in his previously-vetted closet.
Even Secret Service Assistant Director Ed Lowery got in on the illegal fun, suggesting via email that “some information [Chaffetz] finds embarrassing needs to get out.” Information did get out, but it had no effect on Chaffetz’s reputation. The only people embarassed (sic) were the Secret Service and DHS head Jeh Johnson, who was forced to apologize on its behalf.
Johnson’s press release, detailing the results of the DHS’s investigation of the incident, shows dozens were questioned about this violation of the Privacy Act. Better yet, it shows dozens were punished for their misconduct.
- “In all, the conduct of 57 Secret Service personnel was reviewed, including 11 at the SES [Senior Executive Service] level. Of those, 41 are receiving some level of discipline. This discipline includes a letter of reprimand to one individual, suspended discipline contingent on no further misconduct for a period of five years, and suspensions from duty without pay for periods of up to 45 days. The one individual found by the Inspector General to have disclosed the private information to an outside source, the Washington Post, has resigned from the Secret Service.”
As is often the case, the employee whose misconduct was the worst slipped out the door before the hammer could come down. As for the rest, the sheer number of Secret Service personnel involved shows this agency is no less susceptible to peer pressure and bandwagon jumping than the occupants of the average high school locker room.
Rest assured, this sort of misconduct won’t rear its ugly head again, because top Secret Service officials say Things are being Done.
- “Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service. From Director Clancy, I have been told that tighter processes are now in place to limit access to personally identifiable information and to highlight for employees the consequences of a breach of that data.”
I’d love to know what these “tighter processes” are. Hopefully it’s something more than post-login clickwrap saying something to the effect of “user agrees to abide by all policies and statutes” with an “OK” button being the only thing standing between them and dirt on legislators they don’t like.
I’m sure they’ve learned their lesson and, along with not stiffing their hookers (no pun intended) or getting drunk and crashing into the White House gate, they now know better than to run illegal background check to dig up dirt on people that criticize them for not paying their hookers and crashing cars into the White House gate while driving drunk.