In a Secret Service agency desperate for reform, new director falling short


The following editorial appeared in The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday, Oct. 6:

You’d think Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy would remember something as outrageous as dozens of agents circulating the private personnel records of a congressman who has been among the agency’s harshest critics.

The potential is chilling: Were secret service agents blatantly violating privacy laws with the hopes of embarrassing a foe? Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the job records showed that he had been rejected for Secret Service employment.

Such a breach of privacy should demand swift punishment. Instead, we’ve gotten prevarication.

Clancy insisted to Homeland Security’s inspector general that he had been in the dark about the unflattering information about Chaffetz and his staffers’ role in circulating it until a colleague told him in April that The Washington Post planned to write about it. But Clancy can’t keep his stories straight. He now says he knew he’d been told the information was being shared before the story was leaked.

So why didn’t Clancy discipline those involved when he found out about it?

His defense is that he considered the original reports to be “not credible” and “not indicative” of inappropriate employee actions. But, according to Chaffetz, by Friday, Clancy was on the phone apologizing and acknowledging that he had learned about the breach days before it became public but then had forgotten.

Forgotten? Didn’t know? Not credible? Clancy can’t have it three ways.

The Homeland Security report found that 45 agents and supervisors had peeked at and circulated Chaffetz’s personnel file, which was stored in an internal Secret Service database and is required by law to be kept private. Eighteen supervisors, including the deputy director and Clancy’s chief of staff, knew the information had been accessed inside the agency, it said. The report also concluded that assistant director Edward Lowery sent emails urging the agency to publicly leak Chaffetz’s files.

This appears to be an overt abuse of authority designed to intimidate and embarrass Chaffetz, and make his inquiry appear to be a personal vendetta against the agency that didn’t hire him.

We’re troubled that Clancy didn’t seem concerned that his staff had broken the law. Clancy, a veteran insider, was supposed to be the guy who cleaned up the mess from his predecessors, Mark Sullivan and Julia Pierson. Scandals involving agents and prostitutes on the presidential detail in Colombia and numerous fence jumpers, including one who made it inside the White House, have tarnished the agency’s spit-polish image.

Given the urgent need for reform in the agency, we had high hopes for Clancy. But he’s demonstrating that he’s not the right person to put this agency back on the straight and narrow.

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