Secret Service Violates Privacy Act

John Roth, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, has released his report detailing a violation of the Privacy Act of 1974 by the Secret Service. The agency has apologized to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) for improperly accessing sensitive personal information about him dozens of times. Moreover, said report states:

With regard to the Washington Post, one agent, [redacted] , from WFO, acknowledged in a written statement to OIG that he disclosed, on two separate occasions, information he knew to be derived from Secret Service records, and hence a system of records protected by the Privacy Act, to a Washington Post reporter. He told us that he had confirmed for the reporter the fact that he had received an email that had contained the Chaffetz applicant record. However, [redacted] understood that he was not the sole, or even original, source for this information.

The linked Washington Post article states,

The inspector general’s inquiry found that the Chaffetz information was spread to nearly every layer of the 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, according to the report. The day after the March 24 hearing, one agent who had been sent to New York for the visit of the president of Afghanistan recalled that nearly all of the 70 agents at a briefing were discussing it.

All told, 18 supervisors, including assistant directors, the deputy director and even Clancy’s chief of staff knew the information was being widely shared through agency offices, the report said.

So, what prompted this strenuous activity by the agency designated to protect the president? Rep. Chaffetz was aggressively investigating allegations of Secret Service misconduct. The agency, instead of performing the tasks assigned to it by law, apparently sought rather to intimidate and embarrass the Republican. Perhaps agents were chafing under the Long List of Breaches and Scandals for [the] Secret Service Under Obama. Shockingly, instead of working to clean up their mess, they apparently decided to pad their dishonorable portfolio with fresh material.

The number of employees and departments involved prompts an obvious question? Why didn’t anybody try to stop these illegal acts? Didn’t anybody know that what they were doing was wrong? The linked report states that many insisted that their actions were not inappropriate–even though there was a warning banner citing criminal penalties for unauthorized access or use. In the space of nine days, Chaffetz’s application was accessed 60 times with only four inquiries that could reasonably be construed as justified. In the face of an investigation, everybody pleads ignorance. That’s rather convenient, no?

The report states that Joseph Clancy, Secret Service Director, “did not know” of the Chaffetz feeding frenzy, in part, because of ” two specific instances in which senior managers missed an opportunity either to stop the information themselves, or to inform Secret Service Director Clancy about the Chaffetz record and its improper access by Secret Service employees.” Yes, Clancy did not know, even though his chief of staff (Michael Biermann) and deputy director (Craig Magaw) were privy to the information. Of course that’s eyebrow raising, to say the least, but the report goes on to say that, “When he became aware, he took swift and decisive action, but too late to prevent his agency from again being subject to justified criticism.” Yes, too late indeed.

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  • Commander_Chico

    Don’t fool yourself if you think this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time in thousands of circumstances. Yet some want the government to have access to our most private communications all the time without a warrant.

    September 29, 2015

  • Hank_M

    Are there any Federal agencies we can trust anymore?

  • Walter_Cronanty

    Just following the model constructed by Obama [see, IRS, FBI, EPA, BATF, OSHA, etc.]. It isn’t surprising that an unlawful executive has unlawful bureaucracies under his control. The fish rots from the head down.

  • Jwb10001

    I don’t see anywhere here a description of the swift action taken by Clancy, does anyone know what the repercussions were? If they fall short of prosecution then they are insufficient. Nixon must be rolling in his grave.

    • Scalia

      According to the report I linked, Clancy did the following:

      Shortly thereafter, on the same evening, the Director had his staff prepare a message addressing the unauthorized release of protected information by
      Secret Service employees and had the message sent agency-wide that night. This email obliquely referenced the disclosure of the Chaffetz MCI record to the media and reminded employees that they are prohibited from disclosing sensitive agency information, even between Secret Service employees, except pursuant to applicable rules and policies. The message concluded with a warning that “All dissemination of any such information must immediately

      On April 3rd, the Director held a staff meeting with his senior managers to
      address this issue. On April 17th, the Director issued another all-agency
      message referring to recent employee misconduct incidents and stated that he
      will not tolerate employees who continue to disregard rules and violate the oath
      they once swore to uphold.

      According to The Hill, the White House is confident that those responsible will be held “accountable.” Rather tepid, I’d say. Would it be a stretch to say that if a Democrat were outed for being a cross-dresser, the administration would be foaming at the mouth and calling for heads to roll?

      • Jwb10001

        Short answer is, he sent a strongly worded memo lol….. figures. Let’s just imagine that during a republican presidency this same stuff happened, wonder what the response of our gatekeepers in the media would be….. I suspect they might be slightly more engaged.

      • Tar, feathers, rail.

      • Walter_Cronanty

        OOPS – “Secret Service director revises account of his role in leak case”

        “Director Joseph P. Clancy this week alerted investigators that he was revising his account, the officials said. He said he now remembers being told by a top deputy, a week before the information was published, that the agency had rejected Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) for a job as an agent, the officials said.

        Previously, Clancy had told investigators that he was unaware of the information about Chaffetz — or that members of his staff were sharing it internally in violation of federal privacy law — until he was informed April 1 that The Washington Post planned to publish an article about the matter, according to a government watchdog report.”

        Whatya want to bet that one of his underlings that he was throwing under the bus, “reminded” the good Director that he was “misremembering” what really happened?

        • Scalia

          Thanks for the update. I was not aware of that. I wonder if anybody above Clancy knew about it too…..

  • Commander_Chico

    • Jwb10001

      This is a perfect example of why it’s stupid to believe complex conspiracy theories. First of all conspiracies are generally over something this stupid, second they never hold together. The more complex the theory the less likely it is to have any connection with reality.