WASHINGTON — An October report from an independent Inspector General investigating an incident where Secret Service agents were taken off duty at the White House perimeter to guard a colleague's home found that the problem was less prevalent than reported, though still "problematic."
In the summer of 2011, a rotating two-agent squad of plainclothes agents from the Secret Service's "Prowler" unit were pulled from duty near the White House to monitor the home of a Secret Service employee about an hour's drive away in Maryland. The agents, in sophisticated vehicles, "respond to suspicious persons and situations in and around the White House and the National Capital Region," according to the report, which was released by Department Of Homeland Security IG John Roth on Oct. 17.
Details of the scheme were first reported by the Washington Post in May.
The Post reported Prowler agents were used to monitor the employee's house as well as her neighbor's house for "at least two months," based on sourcing. Other sources told the paper the the operation "continued through the summer months," finally petering out to an end "by early fall."
A spokesperson for the Secret Service denied at the time that the Moonlight operation went on for months, telling the paper that "agency records indicate that the assignment took place for only a few days over the Fourth of July weekend."
The Secret Service declined to provide records of the operation, according to the Post.
The IG report found that "Operation Moonlight" — or "Moonshine," as it was also known — actually only lasted a period of days, from rather than two months. The operation went from July 1 to 5, 2011 and was discontinued on July 7. While some recollections from agents varied about the timeframe, the IG found "no evidence" the operation went past July 5.
The operation was launched after a staffer in the director's office at Secret Service headquarters in Washington had what the IG reported was "an altercation" with a neighbor at her home in Maryland on June 30, 2011. The staffer sought a restraining order from a judge, which she obtained on July 5. In the interim, Prowler units were ordered to monitor the staffer's home and background checks were run on her neighbors.
"The duration of these visits could not accurately be determined," the IG report reads. "Some agents told us that they remained there between 15 minutes and 2 hours, to include drive time."
On two of the days Prowler agents were monitoring the staffer's home, President Obama was in Washington and the "Moonlight" operation meant Prowler units "would have been unable to respond to exigencies at the White House," according to the IG. The IG report concludes the entire operation was "problematic" and "created the appearance" of agents being dispatched based on the staffer's friendship with top Secret Service leaders and not a legitimate threat worthy of federal resources.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that the armed CDC guard on an elevator with the president was not a convicted felon as first reported.
This post has been updated to reflect that, at the time of the Post's report, a Secret Service spokesman disputed the length of the operation, and said it only lasted days, in a comment to the paper.