WASHINGTON — A senior Secret Service official suggested to one of his deputies that they leak to the news media unflattering information uncovered in a government database about a Republican House committee chairman who had been sharply critical of the agency, according to a report made public Wednesday by an internal government watchdog agency.
The findings, released by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, said that dozens of Secret Service agents had inappropriately intruded on a network that contained files on people who had been rejected by the agency’s application process.
The agents discovered that the committee chairman, Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, had applied to be an agent in 2003, but had not been hired because “better qualified applicants existed,” the report said.
Mr. Chaffetz has been the Secret Service’s most outspoken critic in the last several years as it has weathered a series of embarrassing scandals.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz at the start of a hearing in Washington on Secret Service accountability in May.
Several weeks after the agents uncovered the information about Mr. Chaffetz’s application, the Secret Service’s head of public affairs sent an assistant director an email about subpoenas Mr. Chaffetz had issued for information from the agency.
“Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” said the assistant director, Edward Lowery, in response. “Just to be fair.”
Two days later, The Daily Beast reported that Mr. Chaffetz had applied to be an agent in 2003 and was rejected.
The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, John Roth, said in the report that his investigators could not conclude who provided the information to The Daily Beast.
According to the report, Mr. Lowery denied directing anyone to leak the information. The head of public affairs for the Secret Service, Faron Paramore, said he did not reply to the email and did not act on it, the report said.
“We have no information that would establish that either Lowery or Paramore made good on the email,” the report said. “We were unable to determine with certainty how many of those individuals in turn disclosed this information to others who did not have a need to know, who may have then told others,” the report said. “However, the disclosure was widespread, and recipients of the information likely numbered in the hundreds. Those agents we interviewed acknowledged freely sharing it with others in the Secret Service, often contemporaneously with accessing the information.”
Shortly after the report was made public on Wednesday, Mr. Chaffetz released a statement, saying that 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,” Mr. Chaffetz said. The secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, said, “I also reiterate the apology I issued in April to Chairman Chaffetz.”
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.