Blowback: Secret Service knew about leaked info used to smear congressman

The chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform committee, Congressman Jason Chaffetz. © Gary Cameron
The director of the Secret Service admitted that he knew about Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s application to join the Secret Service and the subsequent rejection that was leaked to news media. The admission contradicts a previous statement made to investigators.

Director Joseph Clancy’s admission comes the same week that federal investigators released a report on the agency. The report found that 45 agents and supervisors peeked at Chaffetz’s personnel file, which was stored in an internal Secret Service database and was required by law to be kept private.

The report said that 18 supervisors, including the deputy director and Clancy’s chief of staff, knew that the information had been accessed from within the agency. However, Clancy had never been informed.

The report also found that accessed Chaffetz’s records about 60 times, and the records were accessed by officials from across the country, including at headquarters in Dallas, Boston and Phoenix. One agent even logged in from London.

Congressman Chaffetz, (R-Utah) is a member of the House Oversight Committee, and has been very critical about Secret Service security lapses.

In a statement released on Thursday to the Washington Post, Clancy said he recalled becoming aware in March about a “speculative rumor” that Chaffetz had applied to the service and was rejected. He said he considered at the time that it was “not credible” and “not indicative” of any inappropriate action by employees.

He previously told federal investigators he was unaware of the information about Chaffetz.

“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,” Clancy said in the statement, according to the Post. “I feel it is extremely important to be as accurate as possible regarding my knowledge of this matter and I have personally spoken to Chairman Chaffetz to advise him of the additional information that I provided to the Inspector General.”

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), wrote a letter to Clancy on Friday, expressing his deep concern at the effort to use private information to smear a critic. He demanded answers about how Clancy would hold people accountable in the incident.

No one, whether a Member of Congress or a private citizen, should have private information violated in this manner. This incident is precisely why Americans do not trust the federal government with their personal information.”

Goodlatte gave Clancy until Wednesday to detail his plans on how to discipline those responsible for sharing the information.

Investigators from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office plan to re-interview Clancy about his revised account, according to the Washington Post.

The leak to the news media was published by the Daily Beast in a story on April 2, with the headline: “Congressman Who Overseas Secret Service Was Rejected by Secret Service.”

According to the Daily Beast, Chaffetz said he applied to the Secret Service in 2003 following 9/11, but he added that he was never interviewed and his file was marked to indicate that better qualified candidates existed. Chaffetz had previously said he believes he was too old to apply. He was 36 at the time. The cutoff age for hiring agents is 37.

President Obama picked Clancy as director of the agency despite a recommendation by administration panel of experts that an outsider be hired to improve Secret Service. Clancy is a 27-year veteran of the agency.

The agency has been under intense scrutiny because of a series of high-profile lapses. In March, two top supervisors spent a night drinking at an agent’s retirement party and drove towards the White House complex, through barricades and straight into an investigation of a suspected bomb incident. The two men were allowed to drive off without sobriety testing.

In February, an off-duty defense employee flew a drone that crashed on the White House lawn. Four months prior, a man with a knife climbed over the White House fence and made it deep inside the building before officers tackled him. In 2011, a gunman three-quarters-of-a-mile away from the White House fired shots that hit the building while one of President Obama’s daughters was home.

The Secret Service’s previous director, Julia Pierson, resigned in October 2014 after a number of security lapses. A critical report released in December found the agency was stretched beyond its limits, was too insular, and was “starved for leadership.

Five agency managers were removed from their positions in January as a result.