The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee voiced alarm Sunday after The Washington Post reported that Secret Service officials were diverted from their job patrolling the White House perimeter to protect a personal friend of the agency’s director.
“This is just one more example of a leadership failure at the Secret Service,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “When you have someone removed from a post whose primary responsibility is to protect the president, and the White House and its occupants, that is very, very concerning.”
The report said that over at least two months in 2011, agents assigned to the White House were ordered to a rural area in Southern Maryland nearly an hour from Washington to protect then-Director Mark Sullivan’s assistant.
Sullivan was said to be concerned that his assistant, Lisa Chopey, was being harassed by her neighbor, The Post reported, citing people familiar with the assignment, known internally as Operation Moonlight.
Rogers said the “one concern that I have” is that the current director, Julia Pierson, was the chief of staff during that period. “So they’re going to have some explaining to do,” Rogers said. “And maybe they’ve got great explanations. But they’re going to have to come up and explain. And if they can’t get this piece right, I think you’re going to have to look at a cultural leadership shift in the Secret Service.”
A Secret Service official said Pierson was unaware of the operation.
Rogers added about the incident: “This is just one of those black marks that make you scratch your head. You have to ask if there is a leadership culture that needs to be ripped out at the Secret Service.”
Sullivan retired in 2013 but said in a statement to The Post, “The U.S. Secret Service has always taken seriously threats made against employees and responds as appropriate.”
He said through a spokesman on Monday that he did not personally order the 2011 checks on his assistant’s home and that a supervisor in his office authorized the visits. He said that he learned of the checks afterward.