The revelation that Secret Service personnel accessed a confidential internal file regarding sitting House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and spread its contents around for the purpose of vindictively discrediting him is stunning. If you had told me that four or five Secret Service agents had done something like this, knowing that what they were doing was unethical and dishonest, I would have told you there was no way so many of them would violate the trust that lies at the core of their job. But as the Washington Post reports, Secret Service “staff members in the most senior headquarters offices, the president’s protective detail, the public affairs office, the office of investigations, and field offices in Sacramento, Charlotte, Dallas and elsewhere accessed Chaffetz’s file – and many acknowledged sharing it widely.” It is shocking that more than 70 members of the Secret Service accessed Rep. Chaffetz’s file and leaked it to the press – they all had to know it was wrong to do so. The reputation of the Secret Service has been tarnished more by this scandal than by any of the other recent revelations or lapses.
In the early 1980’s, I spent a lot of time around the Secret Service as a young White House Staff advance man. I thought those guys were ten feet tall (and maybe they were back then). Anyway, I remember the culture of the White House traveling squad back in the day, including the ethos of “work hard, play hard,” and “what happens on the road stays on the road.” I have been quick to defend the Secret Service in the past, but this latest incident is beyond the pale – and, as Insiders readers know, I have a pretty big pale.
This revelation suggests there is something broken deep within the Secret Service. And where is the Department of Justice on this? Why aren’t they moving more quickly? I assume the DOJ investigation into what are likely to be criminal conduct charges will follow the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation, but again, I am bewildered by the fact that the DOJ has not been more aggressive. Whether or not they drag their feet, it is certain that many more shoes will drop.
Anyway, say it ain’t so. It is a sad day. The Secret Service is an iconic institution. Rep. Chaffetz is one of the leading lights in the Republican Party. He deserves better, and we all deserve to have a Secret Service that is worthy of the admiration so many have had for the president’s guard. The changes that have been made to the organization so far clearly haven’t been effective. Something drastic has to happen to restore the confidence in and respect for America’s Secret Service.