Tag Archives: Secret Service

Report: Secret Service Violated Privacy Law To Shame Lawmaker

The Secret Service issued an apology to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Wednesday after a report revealed that an assistant director suggested the agency release sensitive personal information about Chaffetz, a prominent critic.

The report from the Office of the Inspector General confirmed that Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote an email to another director on March 31, saying that “some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out.”

A story was then published on April 2 which revealed that Chaffetz had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and been rejected. That information was part of a personnel file “stored in a restricted Secret Service database and required by law to be kept private,” according to the Washington Post.

Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform who is responsible for overseeing the Secret Service, has a history of pursuing allegations of Secret Service misconduct. In March, he criticized the agency for deleting video surveillance that could have contained answers about a car crash near the White House involving two Secret Service agents.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson released a statement saying that he first asked the department’s Inspector General to “investigate reports of improper access and distribution of information by U.S. Secret Service employees” pertaining to Chaffetz in April.

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

Johnson concluded the statement saying that he reiterates the apology he issued to Chaffetz in April. “Activities like those described in the report must not, and will not, be tolerated,” he said.

In response, Chaffetz said that he believes the release of information was “a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me.”

“If they would do this to me, I just, I shuddered to think what they might be doing to other people,” Chaffetz told NBC News. “I’d like to tell you how tough I am, but it’s scary, and it’s intimidating, and I will continue to investigate the Secret Service and others, but this should have never ever happened.”

Chaffetz also said that the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue, and that he remains “undeterred in conducting proper and rigorous oversight.”

Review finds Secret Service needs an ‘overhaul’

The Secret Service has faced a lot of scrutiny recently after allowing multiple people to breach the perimeter of the White House and approach the president unhindered.  Now, a review panel released a report of the agency responsible for protecting the president, and is calling for a major overhaul of the agency.

The panel heard one common critique from those inside and outside the Service: The Service is too insular,” reads the summary of the report.  The report also says the Secret Service is “starved for leadership that rewards innovation and excellence.”

The report outlined a few recommendations for ways to help the Secret Service, the first of which, according to Reuters, is to simply build a higher fence around the White House.  The new fence would be “4 to 5 feet higher” than the current fence and the top of which would curve outwards.

Another recommendation was also hiring more agents.  “The Secret Service is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits,” said the report.  The addition of close to 300 new agents, the report found, would shorten the long hours the agents currently work and allow more needed rest for agents.  

Finally, the report suggests the need for a non-Secret Service person to be selected for the position of leader within the agency.  This goes against the long-standing practice of choosing a Secret Service member as the leader, but it would also bring a fresh view of the agency from the outside.  This, the report claims, would bring more accountability to the agency.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson weighed in on the review, saying, according to CBS News, the panel findings were “astute, thorough and fair.”

“It is now up to the leadership of the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that all the recommendations are carefully considered,” said Johnson.  “In fact, some of the panel’s recommendations are similar to others made in past agency reviews… The Secret Service itself must commit to change.”

Oath Upheld: Nashville Cops Refused Secret Service Request for Illegal Search of Obama Critic

Following Secret Service Director Julia Pierson’s recent resignation over a major security breach at the White House, new allegations are facing the president’s embattled security detail. According to Phil Williams at News Channel 5, Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson sent a scathing letter last week to the House Committee on Oversight complaining that Secret Service agents asked Nashville police officers to falsify a warrant during an investigation into a local resident who allegedly posted “threatening” comments about President Obama on Facebook.

Williams’ report notes that, in January of 2013, Secret Service agents working out of the Nashville field office visited the home of the resident who made the Facebook postings and knocked on his door. Then, an agent called local police and asked for backup, stating that the individual was refusing to let them in without a warrant and appeared to be armed. When Nashville police arrived, they informed the Secret Service agents that the man in question is a licensed gun owner, did not violate the law, and that a warrant would be required in order to investigate further. Chief Anderson said in his letter, “one of the agents then asked a [Nashville police] sergeant to ‘wave a piece of paper’ in an apparent effort to dupe the resident into thinking that they indeed had a warrant.” Faced with a request to violate their oath of office and the rights of a citizen, the officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department flatly refused and left the scene.

Chief Anderson, upset that his officers were asked to violate a citizen’s rights in a way that could have escalated into a dangerous situation, contacted then Secret Service Director Julia Pierson and Assistant Director A.T. Smith to file a complaint. Pierson did not reply to Anderson, but Smith did so in a demeaning tone, essentially telling Nashville’s police chief to “mind [his] own affairs” and refusing to investigate the incident.

An angry Anderson then met with officials in the Secret Service’s Nashville field office and asked, “Do you think it is appropriate to wave a piece of paper in the air and tell him you have a warrant when you do not have a warrant?” In his letter, Anderson noted that an unnamed Secret Service official replied, “I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer.” Anderson then inquired as to why Secret Service agents would request that Nashville police falsify a warrant if they felt that it was something that they had lawful authority to do, implying that merely by asking, the agents were demonstrating their understanding that they were making an illegal request. Anderson noted that his “complaint was not well-received” and that officials would not offer any reassurance that similar incidents would be prevented in the future.

Chief Anderson believes that the Nashville incident is evidence that corruption in the Secret Service runs deeper than just its director. He feels that there are problems with the culture of the organization and that major administrative reform is necessary. As the above-embedded video by News Channel 5 points out, Anderson indicated that, in the future, Nashville police officers will have to request permission from top officials before assisting Secret Service agents in further investigations.

As a side note, back in May of 2013, shortly after the incident, Secret Service agents did not invite Nashville police to assist in providing security for First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to the Music City. It is not known whether the dispute over the warrant factored into that decision, but it is unprecedented for local police to be left out of security plans during a visit by a first lady.