Secret Service supervisors involved in Colombia scandal identified
By David Nakamura and Carol D. Leonnig,
One of the Secret Service supervisors ousted from the agency this week for their involvement in the Colombia prostitution scandal made light of his official protective work on his Facebook page, joking about a picture of himself standing watch behind Sarah Palin.
David Randall Chaney, 48, posted several shots of himself on duty in a dark suit and sunglasses, including one that shows him behind the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee during that campaign.
“I was really checking her out, if you know what i mean?” Chaney wrote in the comments section after friends had marveled at the photo. He is married and has an adult son.
Chaney, who had been a supervisor in the Secret Service’s international programs division, retired under pressure Wednesday, according to people familiar with an internal agency investigation into the allegations that 11 agents and uniformed officers participated in a night of carousing April 11 ahead of President Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas.
He was one of two senior supervisors who are accused in the scandal, which investigators believe included heavy drinking, visits to a strip club and payments to women working as prostitutes. Several people familiar with the matter have identified the other supervisor as Greg Stokes, who was assistant special agent in charge of the K-9 division. Stokes has been notified by agency officials that he will be fired, although he will be given an opportunity to contest the charges, those with knowledge of the case said.
The disclosure that two high-level managers were involved in the misconduct has raised questions of accountability and personal conduct in an agency whose top leadership has insisted that the Cartagena incident is an isolated and aberrant case, not a sign of a deeper cultural problem within the institution.
Chaney and Stokes have each worked at the Secret Service for nearly two decades, and both have served significant time with the presidential protection detail, people who know the men said. Both are based in Washington.
The supervisors were sent on the trip to supervise dozens of younger, less-experienced agents who were part of the advance team preparing for Obama’s arrival.
Lawrence Berger, the general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and an attorney for Chaney and Stokes, declined to comment on details of the allegations involving his clients. He said the agency’s investigation is not complete for either man and stressed that any judgment about their roles in the scandal is “premature.”
“It’s our ultimate position that nothing they may or may not have done in Colombia negatively impacted the efficiency of their mission,” Berger said. “Nothing that has been reported to have been done has impacted negatively their mission or the president’s visit.”
Members of Congress who have been briefed on the matter have said 21 men are suspected of bringing as many as 21 prostitutes to their rooms. Ten military personnel also have been accused of participating, along with the 11 Secret Service members.
The incident became public after one man got into a dispute over payment with a woman on the morning of April 12, drawing the attention of hotel staff and Colombian authorities, who reported the matter to the U.S. Embassy.
The Secret Service recalled its 11 employees and replaced them with another team before Obama arrived April 13. All of the recalled members were placed on administrative leave, and their top-secret security clearances were revoked.
The Secret Service announced Wednesday that three of the men were being dismissed from the agency for their involvement. The third man is a junior member of the team who has voluntarily elected to resign, those familiar with the investigation said.
Berger did not answer questions about his clients’ employment status.
“They have a passion for the agency’s mission,” he said. “They’ve both been doing it for over 17 or 18 years, day in and day out, and very well.”
On Thursday, Capitol Hill lawmakers who oversee the Department of Homeland Security — which includes the Secret Service — said they expected more resignations and firings in the case. Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the 11 agents involved in the scandal underwent drug tests and polygraph exams. Agency investigators in Colombia have visited all of the hotels where Secret Service personnel stayed and have interviewed each of the maids who cleaned rooms in the Hotel Caribe, King said.
People who know the two supervisors have described Chaney’s duties in the international programs division as supervising a department that provides support and administrative help to the agency’s foreign offices. Stokes has been described as the assistant special agent in charge of the K-9 training division at the James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville.
Attempts to reach both men were unsuccessful. Calls made to Chaney’s home and cellphone and to Stokes’s home were not returned. No one answered the door when a reporter visited Chaney’s home in Northern Virginia. Parked outside was a silver Ford pickup truck, bearing stickers with a colorful outline of Texas, Chaney’s home state, and the mantra “SECEDE.”
A relative of Chaney said she would relay a message to him.
The commitment to the Secret Service runs deep in Chaney’s family. His father, George Washington Chaney, was a Secret Service agent in President John F. Kennedy’s era and knew the agents on his detail when Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
The elder Chaney had remarked to friends that he started at the service working “diaper duty,” where he watched President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s children and grandchildren in Gettysburg, Pa., and also met his wife. Later, he traveled to work in Dallas, where he was on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s protective detail. He also served a stint in the service’s El Paso office and then became the agent in charge of personnel in the D.C. headquarters, where he was working when Kennedy was shot.
He retired in 1977 and started a new line of work as a document examiner in Dallas, where he and his wife raised their five children.
On David Chaney’s Facebook page, he posted several shots of himself with Palin.
In one picture, he is wearing a dark suit and sunglasses, standing near a black vehicle behind Palin as she approaches a crowd. In the comments section next to the photo, a friend remarked that Chaney appeared to be “lurking in the shadows” behind Palin.
Another kidded that there seemed to be “real chemistry” between the two.
Chaney posted: “I was really checking her out, if you know what i mean?”
Another friend asked if one of the buttons on Palin’s lapel was emblazoned with Chaney’s face.
Chaney replied, “well if it was could you blame her, anything to satisfy a stalker.”
In another set of Facebook photos, Chaney documents a trip he took with his grown son to Egypt. One photo shows a voluptuous belly dancer in a revealing bikini-like top and tight, sequined skirt positioned between him and his son.
“Not in front of my son,” Chaney joked in the comments section.
On Fox News Thursday night, Palin responded to the Post’s revelations about Chaney’s comments by saying she was disgusted that a Secret Service agent would make jokes about checking out her “backside” and called his behavior “pretty embarrassing.”
“This agent . . . was kind of ridiculous posting pictures and comments,” she said. “Well check this out, bodyguard. You’re fired! And I hope his wife . . . kicks him into the dog house.”
Palin stressed she viewed the scandal as emblematic of Obama’s poor management. “Look who’s running the show,” she said. “People will say its boys being boys. I’ve had enough of these men being dogs and not being responsible for the taxpayer’s dollars.”
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren told Palin she agreed Obama should be held accountable for how he reacted to the incident but stressed that the agent made his comments about Palin under the Bush administration.
One current agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the investigation, said both Chaney and Stokes were respected, well-liked agents and supervisors, who were both quick to offer advice and mentor younger agents and officers.
“I was just completely shocked to hear they were involved,” the agent said.
Staff writer Ed O’Keefe and staff researchers Alice Crites and Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.
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