A rush to recruit additional Secret Service officers in the wake of numerous White House security lapses has led to a new problem: Several dozen of the fresh arrivals have been posted in sensitive positions without completing the required national security clearance process, according to two government officials familiar with the situation.
Secret Service Director Joseph P. Clancy acknowledged the problem last week during a private conversation with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). The lawmaker had raised the issue after hearing from a whistleblower who alleged that newly hired officers had been present for White House meetings in which classified material was shared, Meadows told The Washington Post.
Clancy promised to fix the situation as soon as possible, a Secret Service official said Tuesday. The official said the agency is struggling to work through an “administrative backlog” in issuing security clearances with the higher-than-normal volume of new hires.
The hiring push began after an incident last September in which a man jumped the White House fence, ran through the mansion’s front door and raced through much of the main floor. The breach was an embarrassment for the Secret Service and prompted lawmakers and security experts to call for beefing up protection for the compound and the first family.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said Tuesday that Clancy has put additional administrative staff to work on the backlog and that all outstanding clearances will be issued by Friday.
“The director has taken immediate steps to accelerate the top-secret adjudication process and has allocated additional resources to ensure that this is completed as quickly as possible,” Leary said.
As a condition of employment, all Secret Service agents and officers are required to submit to a background check and a lie-detector test, and must obtain a top-secret security clearance.
Agents and officers, as part of their work guarding the White House grounds and protecting the president and top aides, are sometimes present for meetings and briefings where classified information is discussed.
A Secret Service official said four to five dozen officers lacked security clearances last week before the issue was brought to Clancy’s attention. A little more than two dozen of those were posted at the White House, the official said.
Leary said the agency is quickly working through the list and as of late Tuesday was down to 10 officers without clearances.
Leary declined to say what kinds of sensitive information the officers may have had access to.
Meadows, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he reached out to Clancy because he considered the whistleblower’s allegations to be serious.
Meadows told The Post it was “very puzzling” that a violation of security standards was tolerated for so long and now could be resolved in a week.
“Without the clearance, you could share information by mistake,” Meadows said. “I trust everyone on my staff, but there are only a few with a top-secret clearance. They know the zero tolerance that any of us have for inappropriately sharing this information.”