An official at the Department of Homeland Security who investigated the Secret Service’s prostitution scandal in 2012 resigned in August after allegedly being questioned about whether he had hired a prostitute in Florida, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
David Nieland was interviewed by authorities after he was seen entering a hotel frequented by prostitutes in Broward County during a surveillance operation, a federal official told The Washington Post. Nieland declined to respond to the allegations, said the official, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
The Times, citing officials briefed on the investigation, reported that the Broward sheriff’s department later interviewed a prostitute who identified Nieland’s picture and said he had paid her for sex.
William Hillburg, a spokesman for the DHS Inspector General’s office, said Nieland no longer works for the agency, but he declined to discuss the reason for Nieland’s departure, citing agency policy against disclosing personnel matters.
Hillburg confirmed that the agency became aware in May of an incident in Florida involving one of its employees.
Nieland, who has not been charged in connection with the prostitution allegation, told the Times it is untrue. He did not respond to The Post’s requests for comment late Tuesday.
In 2012, Nieland was assigned to lead an investigation of the Secret Service, which falls under the authority of the DHS, after a prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia. Thirteen Secret Service agents and officers were sent home ahead of President Obama’s arrival for an international summit after they were accused of taking prostitutes to their rooms.
Nieland said that in the course of the investigation, his team found evidence that two other persons may have been involved in the same misconduct: a staffer in the White House communications agency, which reports to the military, and a volunteer member of the White House advance team.
Nieland later told Senate investigators that he felt pressure from his superiors in the office of Charles K. Edwards, who was then the acting inspector general, to withhold evidence — and that, in the heat of an election year, decisions were being made with political considerations in mind.
“We were directed at the time . . . to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election,” Nieland told the Senate staffers, The Post reported this month.
Edwards, who has since resigned, and his deputy told the Senate that deletions from the prostitution report were made in the regular course of editing. The Senate investigators’ report said they could not determine whether politics or outside pressure were factors in the changes Edwards’s deputies ordered in the report.
Edwards mentioned the potential involvement of a White House team member in a summary letter to Congress in September 2012.
White House officials have said they investigated the volunteer and found no corroborating evidence of wrongdoing during his stay in Cartagena. A White House spokesman did not reply to a request for comment for this report.
Nieland was one of three employees who questioned the deletion of investigative findings from the Cartagena report that were potentially embarrassing to the administration. The three were put on administrative leave after raising concerns and said they viewed the leave as retaliation.
One of the three made a formal complaint to the Office of Special Counsel, which reviews whistleblowers’ allegations. The office reached a preliminary conclusion that it appeared the employee had been subjected to retaliation by Edwards’s office.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who is leading a House Homeland Security subcommittee investigation of the Secret Service, wrote to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough this month voicing concerns that “steps were taken by the Administration to cover-up or deflect” White House involvement in the scandal.
On Tuesday night, Chaffetz questioned the timing of the allegations about Nieland’s involvement with a prostitute. “There are obviously some people seeking to discredit individuals who are in the business of exposing truth about the administration,” he said. “The timing is curious, to say the least.”