Secret Service forced to apologize again

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Secret Service Leaked Embarrassing Documents on Congressman

On Wednesday, the Secret Service was ridiculed once again after word got out that dozens of agents had accessed the personnel file of a certain House Republican — one who happened to chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that was investigating why the agency was so bad at its job.

"Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out," assistant director Edward Lowery emailed his colleague on March 31. A few days later, an article appeared on the Daily Beast showing that Utah representative Jason Chaffetz had applied to the Secret Service in 2003 — and wasn't accepted.

The Secret Service's less-than-elegant method of revenge was made public in a report released by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security. Around 45 Secret Service agents peeked at Chaffetz's personnel file, which is private and not supposed to be accessed for revenge purposes. The anger-fueled research began 18 minutes after the start of a March 24 committee hearing, in which Chaffetz repeatedly raised his voice, at one point saying, "We're not playing games. This is the life and security of the president of the United States."

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Secret Service forced to apologize again
A receipt from Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant is displayed on a television screen during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on U.S. Secret Service accountability for March 4, 2015 incident, Thursday, May 14, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah speaks at the start of a hearing on Secret Service accountability for a March 4, 2015 incident, Thursday, May 14, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. For months new Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy had been warning agents and officers that misconduct and drunken shenanigans would not be tolerated in the once-vaunted law enforcement agency. And yet, according to investigators, two senior Secret Service agents spent five hours at a bar, ran up a significant tab, and then drove back to the White House, where they shoved their car into a construction barrier and drove within inches of a suspicious package earlier this year. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen))
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 14, 2015, during the committee's hearing on U.S. Secret Service accountability for March 4, 2015 incident. For months new Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy had been warning agents and officers that misconduct and drunken shenanigans would not be tolerated in the once-vaunted law enforcement agency. And yet, according to investigators, two senior Secret Service agents spent five hours at a bar, ran up a significant tab, and then drove back to the White House, where they shoved their car into a construction barrier and drove within inches of a suspicious package earlier this year. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., looks at his phone during the committee's hearing on U.S. Secret Service accountability for March 4, 2015 incident, Thursday, May 14, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah speaks at the start of a hearing on Secret Service accountability for a March 4, 2015 incident, Thursday, May 14, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. For months new Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy had been warning agents and officers that misconduct and drunken shenanigans would not be tolerated in the once-vaunted law enforcement agency. And yet, according to investigators, two senior Secret Service agents spent five hours at a bar, ran up a significant tab, and then drove back to the White House, where they shoved their car into a construction barrier and drove within inches of a suspicious package earlier this year. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)

U.S. Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy testifies during a hearing before the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee March 17, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Director Clancy faced tough questions from lawmakers regarding the recent misconduct scandal as the subcommittee held a hearing to examine the budget for the Security Service.

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Uniformed US Secret Service officers patrol Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, DC, March 12, 2015. The US Secret Service is investigating claims that some of its agents crashed a car into White House security barriers after a night out, The Washington Post reported March 11. The Secret Service was not immediately available to confirm the report, but spokesman Brian Leary told the Post that the probe would be conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

Photo Credit:  JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

An uniformed US Secret Service officer (C) patrols Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, DC, March 12, 2015 as a man takes a selfie. The US Secret Service is investigating claims that some of its agents crashed a car into White House security barriers after a night out, The Washington Post reported March 11. The Secret Service was not immediately available to confirm the report, but spokesman Brian Leary told the Post that the probe would be conducted by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general. 

Photo credit: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Barricades stand in front of the White House on March 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Officials are Investigating allegations that two senior Secret Service agents drove a government car into White House security barricades after drinking at a late night party last week.

Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: Melting snow and barricades sit in front of the White House on March 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Officials are Investigating allegations that two senior Secret Service agents drove a government car into White House security barricades after drinking at a late night party last week. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: Members of the US Secret Service stand watch in front of the White House on March 12, 2015 in Washington, DC. Officials are Investigating allegations that two senior Secret Service agents drove a government car into White House security barricades after drinking at a late night party last week. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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It wasn't just one department accessing the files, according to the Washington Post. The president's guards were looking at the old application — as were people in senior management. Press people saw the file. Secret Service officials in Texas and California looked at Chaffetz's documents. Of the nearly 60 times the documents were accessed, according to the DHS report, agents had a valid reason for only 4. They were mad — and in the process managed to make sure that everyone would be talking about a new Secret Service mess once everyone forgot about the ones that had left them embarrassed and angry in the first place.

The DHS inspector general wasn't quite sure who was responsible for leaking the information. Lowery, the email sender, told investigators that he didn't do it, and that he sent the email out of "stress and ... anger."

"Certain lines should never be crossed," Chaffetz said in a statement. "The unauthorized access and distribution of my personal information crossed that line. It was a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me and frankly, it is intimidating. It's scary to think about all the possible dangers in having your personal information exposed."

Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee — who often disagrees with Chaffetz on many issues — said in a statement, "I believe in fundamental fairness, and those who are unwilling or unable to meet the highest of ethical standards should not be a part of the Secret Service."

Secret Service director Joseph Clancy, who has become an expert in saying sorry, apologized. "On behalf of the men and women of the United States Secret Service," he said in a statement, "I again apologize to Representative Chaffetz for this wholly avoidable and embarrassing misconduct." The apology has now been added to the increasingly diverse and voluminous Google exhibition of Secret Service apologies from the past year.

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