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Secret Service Violated Privacy Protocol, Wanted To Embarrass Congressman

Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, called the breach of his privacy by the Secret Service "intimidating."
Mark Wilson
Getty Images
Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, called the breach of his privacy by the Secret Service "intimidating."

In the latest embarrassment for the Secret Service, agents were found to have improperly accessed, shared and potentially released an unsuccessful 2003 Secret Service job application of Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, according to a government report.

It says that the agents' actions stemmed from a desire to discredit Chaffetz, who was heading investigations of scandals inside the Secret Service.

The inspector general's office released a statement on the report's findings, saying that at least 45 agents accessed the information and that each person who did so "without an official purpose in doing so violated the Privacy Act, Secret Service policy, and DHS policy."

According to the Associated Press, a week after Chaffetz's information was first accessed, Secret Service Assistant Director Ed Lowery sent an email in which he suggested "leaking embarrassing information about Chaffetz in retaliation for aggressive investigations by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee," which was investigating agency misconduct and scandals.

Then days later, The Daily Beast published a story about Chaffetz's unsuccessful job application more than a decade ago.

Chaffetz told the AP that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson personally apologized to him. Chaffetz called the experience "intimidating," saying: "It's what it was supposed to be."

The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General John Roth called the incident "deeply disturbing."

"This episode reflects extremely poor judgment and a lack of care on the part of a number of Secret Service employees. Given the sensitivity of the information with which these agents are entrusted, particularly with regard to their protective function, this episode is deeply disturbing. Secret Service leadership must ensure that behavior like this will not be tolerated."

The inspector general's report also said that 18 supervisors "knew or should have known" that Chaffetz's information was being accessed, yet only one of the supervisors took any action to report or stop the situation.

As NPR's Scott Horsley notes, this report "comes a day after President Obama praised the Secret Service for performing 'flawlessly' during a very busy week, between the pope's visit, the Chinese president's visit, and United Nations General Assembly."

Secret Service Director Joe Clancy did not know about the privacy breach until just before The Daily Beast story was published.

"I will continue to review policies and practices to address employee misconduct and demand the highest level of integrity of all our employees," Clancy said in a statement, according to AP.

Clancy was named permanent head of Secret Service in February after several scandals marred the agency, as the Two-Way reported at the time:

"[The White House] was recently invaded by a rogue drone, and last September, a man scaled the fence around the residence and entered the White House while carrying a knife.

"Those high-profile security breaches followed several instances of Secret Service agents behaving badly. In one case there were reports of supervisors sending sexually suggestive emails to a subordinate; in another, several agents were recalled from the Netherlands, where they used an advance trip ahead of the president's visit as an excuse to drink so much they reportedly passed out in a hotel hallway."

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