The Secret Service issued an apology to Rep. Jason Chaffetz for unlawfully accessing sensitive and personal information about him several times.
Chaffetz described the unlawful access of his unsuccessful application to join the Secret Service in 2003 as “a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me.” As chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has been involved in investigating scandals within the agency.
“It’s scary to think about all the possible dangers in having your personal information exposed,” Chaffetz said in a statement. “The work of the committee, however, will continue. I remain undeterred in conducting proper and rigorous oversight.” As reported by NBC News, he said, “It’s a bit scary. If they would do this to me, I just, I shuddered to think what they might be doing to other people. 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.”
Leaking of Chaffetz’s information was highlighted in a report by Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, John Roth. It said that the file of Chaffetz application was viewed by at least 45 employees, in addition to some who forwarded the information to others. “Yet, with a single exception, there was no evidence than any of the managers attempted to inform up the chain or to stop…the activity,” the report said. “Director Clancy was unaware of the behavior until shortly before the media published reports of it.”
While the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was investigating the scandals within the agency, assistant director, Ed Lowery, suggested leaking embarrassing information about Lowery. The information about Chaffetz’s job application to the Secret Service was published by the Washington Post and the Daily Beast. In an email to fellow assistant director, Faron Paramore, Lowery had written, “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”
However, Lowery defended his stance of not having ordered anyone to release Chaffetz’s information, saying that he “believed it would have been inappropriate to do so,” the report said. The email highlighted “his stress and his anger.”
The Secret Service issued an apology to Chaffetz for “this wholly avoidable and embarrassing misconduct.” The agency also promised the congressman that the blamed will be held accountable. As reported by Fox News, Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, said in a statement, “I am confident that U.S. Secret Service Director Joe Clancy will take appropriate action to hold accountable those who violated any laws or the policies of this department. I also reiterate the apology I issued in April to Chairman Chaffetz. Activities like those described in the report must not, and will not, be tolerated.”
Chaffetz’s job application was viewed in excess of 60 times, despite the employees having “no official need to query Chairman Chaffetz’ name.” The report concluded, saying, “This episode reflects an obvious lack of care on the part of Secret Service personnel as to the sensitivity of the information entrusted to them. It doesn’t take a lawyer explaining the nuances of the Privacy Act to know that the conduct that occurred here — by dozens of agents in every part of the agency — was wrong.”
The report shed light on the “woeful abuse of power by a government agency tasked with one of the most important jobs in the country: protecting our nation’s president,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, chairman of the committee’s panel on government operations, said. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, issued a statement, saying, “I believe in fundamental fairness, and those who are unwilling or unable to meet the highest of ethical standards should not be a part of the Secret Service.”
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