Dozens of Secret Service employees improperly accessed potentially embarrassing personal information about a Utah Republican congressman who was probing scandals at the agency, a federal investigation has found.
According to the Department of Homeland Security report released Wednesday, that Secret Service employees accessed information about Congressman Jason Chaffetz "on approximately 60 occasions." Moreover, the "vast majority" of the employees who accessed the information "did so in violation of the Privacy Act, as well as Secret Service and DHS policy."
Chaffetz — the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — was investigating a series of recent scandals at the Secret Service, including an episode in March during which two drunk agents crashed into a White House barricade.
Among the items targeted and accessed by Secret Service personnel was Chaffetz's unsuccessful job application for the agency in 2003, as well as other information that could have led to "embarrassment," the DHS report states. Both agents and senior level supervisors were involved in, or should have known about, the attempts to access Chaffetz's information.
Some of the information also was apparently leaked to the press. The report notes that both The Washington Post and The Daily Beast ran stories about Chaffetz' application to the Secret Service, though investigators were unable to trace the leaks to a specific person "because of the significant number of individuals who had knowledge of Chairman Chaffetz’ application history."
The report concludes that the behavior of the Secret Service agents "was simply wrong" and they "should have known better."
"These agents work for an agency whose motto – “worthy of trust and confidence” – is engraved in marble in the lobby of their headquarters building," the report continues. "Few could credibly argue that the agents involved in this episode lived up to that motto."
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said he was confident that the Secret Service "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," the statement continued. "Activities like those described in the report must not, and will not, be tolerated."
Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy said his agency takes misconduct seriously, and promised to hold those responsible accountable.
"On behalf of the men and women of the United States Secret Service, I again apologize to Representative Chaffetz for this wholly avoidable and embarrassing misconduct," Clancy said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
Chaffetz did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
The report is the latest in a string of embarrassments for the Secret Service. In addition to the drunk driving incident, the agency came under fire after a man jumped the White House fence last year, and when an agency supervisor was accused of sexual assault. Last October, the head of the agency also resigned.
The DHS report concludes that the Chaffetz episode "reflects an obvious lack of care on the part of Secret Service personnel as to the sensitivity of the information entrusted to them."