DHS report says misconduct not widespread at U.S. Secret Service

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2013 9:29 AM
DHS report says misconduct not widespread at U.S. Secret Service

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found no evidence that misconduct or inappropriate behavior was widespread in the U.S. Secret Service, it said in a report on Friday, but it urged tougher management and discipline standards.

"Disciplinary and security clearance cases show that, while not widespread, USSS should continue to monitor and address excessive alcohol consumption and personal conduct within its workforce," the report said.

The inspector general's office recommended the Secret Service strengthen and clarify policies for dealing with employee misconduct and disciplining employees.

The report was called for in the wake of a prostitution scandal involving Secret Service agents in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012 that damaged the agency's straight-laced reputation.

"The Secret Service takes allegations of misconduct seriously and as this DHS OIG report makes clear, the agency takes appropriate action when misconduct is identified," Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. "We concur with the report's recommendations and have already completed all applicable DHS OIG recommendations from this report."

The inspector general cited instances when the Secret Service did not fully investigate allegations of misconduct by an employee in a foreign country, citing a drinking incident in support of a presidential visit in 2010.

The report verified 14 instances in which employees of the agency engaged in sex in exchange for money. It also said that some of the agents involved in the Cartagena incident had consumed as many as 13 alcoholic drinks.

The agency has tightened its rules on alcohol consumption and extended the period agents must abstain from drinking before duty from six to 10 hours, the report said.

Of the 13 employees suspected of soliciting prostitutes in the Colombia incident, three employees returned to duty, six either resigned or retired, and four had their clearances revoked and were removed, the inspector general said.

The agency named a female director, Julia Pierson, in March, after the Colombia events, which occurred ahead of a visit to Cartagena by President Barack Obama. An official investigation concluded that the president's safety had not been compromised, but the scandal was an embarrassment for the agency, which guards the president.

Pierson has taken a series of steps to address issues raised by the Colombia events and subsequent investigations, the agency official said.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; editing by Jackie Frank and Leslie Adler)