Forty-One Secret Service Employees Punished For Illegally Accessing Congressman's Private Data In Hopes Of Discrediting Him

from the apparently,-the-Secret-Service-employs-a-lot-of-tiny,-easily-bruised-children dept

When Rep. Jason Chaffetz began asking the Secret Service about its string of high-profile failures, agents were quick to respond… with attempts to undermine the Congressman’s credibility. Eighteen minutes after the hearings started, Secret Service agents — dozens of them — began poring through his 2003 Secret Service application in hopes of finding a few skeletons in his previously-vetted closet.

Even Secret Service Assistant Director Ed Lowery got in on the illegal fun, suggesting via email that “some information [Chaffetz] finds embarrassing needs to get out.” Information did get out, but it had no effect on Chaffetz’s reputation. The only people embarassed were the Secret Service and DHS head Jeh Johnson, who was forced to apologize on its behalf.

Johnson’s press release, detailing the results of the DHS’s investigation of the incident, shows dozens were questioned about this violation of the Privacy Act. Better yet, it shows dozens were punished for their misconduct.

In all, the conduct of 57 Secret Service personnel was reviewed, including 11 at the SES [Senior Executive Service] level. Of those, 41 are receiving some level of discipline. This discipline includes a letter of reprimand to one individual, suspended discipline contingent on no further misconduct for a period of five years, and suspensions from duty without pay for periods of up to 45 days. The one individual found by the Inspector General to have disclosed the private information to an outside source, the Washington Post, has resigned from the Secret Service.

As is often the case, the employee whose misconduct was the worst slipped out the door before the hammer could come down. As for the rest, the sheer number of Secret Service personnel involved shows this agency is no less susceptible to peer pressure and bandwagon jumping than the occupants of the average high school locker room.

Rest assured, this sort of misconduct won’t rear its ugly head again, because top Secret Service officials say Things are being Done.

Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service. From Director Clancy, I have been told that tighter processes are now in place to limit access to personally identifiable information and to highlight for employees the consequences of a breach of that data.

I’d love to know what these “tighter processes” are. Hopefully it’s something more than post-login clickwrap saying something to the effect of “user agrees to abide by all policies and statutes” with an “OK” button being the only thing standing between them and dirt on legislators they don’t like.

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Comments on “Forty-One Secret Service Employees Punished For Illegally Accessing Congressman's Private Data In Hopes Of Discrediting Him”

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28 Comments
DannyB (profile) says:

Secret Service Apology

I sincerely regret that those who were harmed by our actions had to discover that the Secret Service was to blame.

I ask for your patience. Something Is Being Done™. I promise that in the future the Secret Service will not get caught doing anything like this ever again.

We at the Secret Service are deeply sorry that bad judgment and poor choice of actions resulted in personal embarrassment for past and present SS employees, and other outside parties and contractors who assisted in committing this crime.

We at the SS take full responsibility for our negligence and lack of diligent care to ensure that we would not get caught. You have my personal assurance that the Secrete Service will exercise much greater and more diligent care in the future.

To Rep. Jason Chaffetz and any others who were hurt by the Secret Service inappropriate, thoughtless and illegal actions I would like to humbly offer my sincerest indifference.

Thank you

Jeh Johnson

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When something happens on as massive a scale as 57 persons, of which 41 are punishable, it involves more levels of the command than 2. 57 independent breaches is statistically improbable, thus the actions were coordinated and had some level of pre-arangement for happening. That kind of problem is not going to get fixed by a slap on the wrist or a friendly talk. As long as this kind of thing has happened for a politician somewhat responsible for their oversight, nobody can see themself safe for such “collution to defame” since their understanding of “target” is gone!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Let's be honest

The ‘punishment’ has nothing to do with what they did, and everything to do with the fact that it didn’t work and they got caught. Had it been brought to their attention in a way that they could brush it under the rug you can be absolutely sure that they would have, without even a hint of ‘Mistakes were made, and we’ll try to do better’ face saving.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Vetted?

This makes me wonder why a congresscritter needs vetting at all. They were elected, no security agency has ANY say in that matter.

They may believe that they might think about withholding some formation because they did not pass some secret test. However, I do not believe that that is anybodies decision but the voters. And if this is an interbranch thingy, executive vs legislative, the the executive needs to get a life.

If some congresscritter has in fact done something wrong, then build a case and bring charges, as has been done in the past. This Micky Mouse (FU Disney) bullshit is purely political and agencies have no business in politics.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

how deep in the rabbit hole ? ? ?

*this* deep:
that the feebs, ess ess, state troopers, local kops, alphabet spooks, etc, time, after time, After Time, AFTER TIME *ARE* caught violating oaths and laws and regulations and guidelines and first grade morality in ABUSING these types (in this case, an ‘in house’ document of sorts) of mass collected information that is arguably unconstitutional to start with, and costly and ineffective to end with; BUT, will still maintain such power/info will NOT be abused, and they absolutely need it to stop the pedo-terrorist-commie-atheist-dee-rug-kingpin who is hiding in your closet, boo…
trust us…
? ? ?
the state HAS abused this power and info slurping; the state/LEO are NOT to be trusted; theyt have NOT PROVEN trustworthy…
repeatedly, constantly, insistently and unrepentant…
they hardly pretend to be aghast that someone in their charge violated law/regulations/etc; a forbearance and forgiveness which is not meted out to non-blue folks for any number of comparable offenses against the state…

oh, that is if you were *really* concerned about crime,
terrorism, etc; and NOT *really* concerned about 99% of the population itching to pull their pitchforks and torches out of the garage…

The They ™ better not stop the bread and circuses, or the hoi polloi may get more than restive…

‘kardashian’ is ‘merika’s “Squirrel!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Compare and contrast

Try to liberate published academic papers in order to further the spread of knowledge: federal criminal charges backed up with bullying sufficient to drive one to suicide.

Violate privacy of citizen, engage in obvious retaliation, access information without authorization, leak private data to the press, denigrate the standing of a vital government agency: meh.

Disgusted Denny says:

Compare and contrast:

Aaron Schwartz:

Activity: Downloaded a bunch of academic journals from computers he had no authorization to access (and whose owners declined to press charges)

Intent: To distribute scientific and technical knowledge to a wider audience.

Punishment: Vastly overreaching prosecution aiming for many years in prison and huge fines that drove Schwartz to suicide.

Secret Service agents:

Activity: Illegally accessed the computerized records of a sitting U.S. Congressman engaged in investigating bad behavior of SS agents

Intent: To try to find dirt on the Congressman in order to intimidate him, exact revenge and discredit him and to undermine an investigation funded by taxpayers

Punishment: …a letter of reprimand to one individual, suspended discipline contingent on no further misconduct for a period of five years, and suspensions from duty without pay for periods of up to 45 days.

In other (future) news, President Obama pardoned Hillary Clinton today for several crimes related to unauthorized use of unsecure servers, as well as for lying to federal officials and suborning others to commit perjury and destroy evidence. Go Hillary!

BernardoVerda says:

Now then... about the one that got away...

“The one individual found by the Inspector General to have disclosed the private information to an outside source, the Washington Post, has resigned from the Secret Service.”

Of course, we can safely assume that this particular individual would, indeed, most certainly have been promptly arrested and tried — if not for the fact that this person managed to flee beyond the reach of the law and the authorities, to safe haven in Russia before those in charge realized anything was amiss and cancelled that rule-breaking, oath-betraying individual’s American passport?

We can… Right?

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