Secret Service Finally "Punishes" Employees Who Leaked Personal Info on GOP Congressman

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: May 27, 2016 8:45 AM
Secret Service Finally "Punishes" Employees Who Leaked Personal Info on GOP Congressman

The Secret Service has finally “punished” dozens of employees for leaking Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s personal files last spring, but some of the penalties are so weak the agency should be ashamed of itself.

Punishments ranged from a letter of reprimand to suspensions without pay for up to 45 days, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

As a reminder, dozens of employees within the agency accessed and shared Chaffetz’s personal files in an effort to embarrass the congressman after he scolded the agency and its director at a contentious hearing over the Secret Service’s misconduct and security gaffes.   

“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Assistant Director Edward Lowery wrote in an e-mail to a fellow director on March 31, commenting on an internal file that was being widely circulated inside the service. “Just to be fair.”

Two days later, a news Web site reported that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and been rejected.

That information was part of a Chaffetz personnel file stored in a restricted Secret Service database and required by law to be kept private. […]

One official told The Post that the material included a parody poster that pictured Chaffetz leading a hearing on the Secret Service from his congressional dais, with the headline “Got BQA from the Service in 2003.” Within the Secret Service, “BQA” is an acronym meaning that a “better qualified applicant” was available.

After the incident Chaffetz and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle were horrified, finding the intimidation tactic to be “utterly unacceptable and indefensible,” according to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson denounced the incident, saying, “Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service.”   

But rather than pursue more severe punishments, which actually would help restore some faith in the agency, all Johnson said about ensuring this never happens again is that access to that type of information has been tightened.

Given that the agency’s motto is “worthy of trust and confidence,” all employees who were found to be involved in this should have been fired.