WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday he has faith in Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, but said Clancy has work to do to "straighten out" the beleaguered agency.
Johnson said he was "very upset" by a March 4 incident in which two off-duty Secret Service agents drove a government car through a secured area at the White House and nudged a temporary barrier, supposedly after a night of drinking. The car intruded in an area where a suspicious item was being investigated.
Johnson told a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday that he personally went to the White House to review the scene and "look at the orange barrel that was moved out of the way."
While the incident remains under investigation, "what I know makes me very upset, especially given the prior string of incidents" that have embarrassed the agency responsible for protecting the president, Johnson said.
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the full Appropriations panel, called the recent incidents troubling, especially given the importance of the Secret Service's mission. Clancy, a longtime agent Service Service veteran who was called out of retirement to take over the agency, faces a crucial test of his leadership, Rogers said.
"We've got to be sure we are not jeopardizing the president's life by taking care of people who have been our friends for years in the Service," he said, adding that the latest incident "smacks" of cronyism.
The department's inspector general is investigating allegations that Secret Service officers guarding the White House compound wanted to conduct sobriety tests on the agents involved in the March 4 incident but were ordered to let them go.
"That agency needs discipline," Rogers said. "It needs to be cleaned up."
Johnson agreed, adding that he is confident Clancy can "straighten the organization out. Change doesn't happen overnight."
Clancy has been criticized for the agency's handling of the March 4 incident and has complained that he was not told about it for five days.
Johnson said he learned about the incident after Clancy did, adding that Clancy faces a major challenge to instill needed discipline.
"It is in many respects an insular-thinking agency," Johnson said.