Secret Service misbehavior isn’t widespread, report says
WASHINGTON (CNN) — An internal government review released Friday found no “widespread” misconduct or inappropriate behavior among U.S. Secret Service employees, after concerns were raised in Congress about the agency’s disciplinary controls following a prostitution scandal.
The 145-page report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general noted isolated cases of unethical conduct among Secret Service workers, on or off duty, that raised broader security concerns. It recommended 14 guidelines to deal with future problems.
The agency whose mission includes protecting the President and visiting world leaders came under embarrassing scrutiny after revelations last year that some of its employees allegedly consorted with prostitutes before President Barack Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.
“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,” said the report. “USSS is planning to identify and address trends in misconduct through the new position of Chief Integrity Officer.”
More than 24 people were eventually linked to the scandal, from both the Secret Service and the military.
Nine of the Secret Service members resigned or were being forced out, and three others were cleared of serious misconduct. They were part of a contingent of hundreds of American security personnel who arrived early to prepare for the April 2012 summit.
Secret Service officials later testified the behavior was isolated and did not reflect an inherent culture of recklessness or lack of supervision. The inspector general’s report concluded the same.
“We did not find any evidence that USSS leadership has fostered an environment that tolerates inappropriate behavior.”
Parts of the report were blacked out, including complete details of an apparently newly revealed incident from 2010, similar to the one in Colombia. Investigators said allegations against an agent were not thoroughly investigated.
“We identified one case that highlights how the combination of managerial discretion and weak internal controls affected multiple areas of the misconduct adjudication process. In this case, USSS did not adequately investigate an allegation of employee misconduct, despite the incident raising security concerns.”
That agent was working in an unidentified foreign country in preparation for a presidential visit, and while off-duty was alleged to have consorted with prostitutes and showed up late to work, smelling of alcohol.
Secret Service employees who had gone to town with the agent, the report says, “consumed alcohol; interacted with FFNs (female foreign nationals); and were untruthful when initially questioned by managers. Both incidents required managers to divert their attention to address potential misconduct.”
One leading member of Congress said he would press the agency to follow through on all the recommendations in the report.
“This report exposes long-standing problems with Secret Service management,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Mississippi), the ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “The Inspector General has revealed what we already knew — that the Secret Service does not have standardized practices in place for handling employee misconduct and discipline. The lack of consistent policy has led to an agency culture dominated by personalities instead of rules.”
Another alleged incident revealed last month has prompted further internal scrutiny. Two Secret Service supervisors on President Obama’s protective detail are being investigated for alleged misconduct, a federal law enforcement source with knowledge of the internal agency investigation told CNN’s John King.
The details were first reported in the Washington Post.
The investigation began after an incident at the posh Hay-Adams hotel near the White House in May. As first reported by the Post, one Secret Service agent allegedly removed ammunition from his service weapon and left a bullet in the room of a female guest, whom he had met in the hotel bar.
The agent tried to regain entry to the room when he realized the bullet was left behind, the Post said. Hotel staff notified the White House after he identified himself as a Secret Service agent and demanded to be let in to the room.
No police report was filed and no complaint was filed with the Secret Service by any of the parties involved, a government source told CNN’s Joe Johns.
“The Secret Service takes allegations of improper behavior seriously and works diligently to investigate and resolve issues. Any misconduct is regrettable, but when it is identified, appropriate action is always taken based on established rules and regulations,” Edwin Donovan, deputy assistant director of the Secret Service, said in a statement at the time.
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