DHS report: No widespread misconduct at Secret Service

The Department of Homeland Security inspector general found in a new report that there's not widespread misconduct at the Secret Service, despite the prostitution scandal in Colombia last year.

"Although individual employees have engaged in misconduct or inappropriate behavior, we did not find evidence that misconduct is widespread in USSS," the report, issued Thursday and obtained by The Washington Post, states.

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The report's electronic survey of 2,575 Secret Service employees found that 83 percent said they were not aware of other employees engaging in misconduct such as solicitation of prostitutes or excessive alcohol consumption. The survey also found that 84 percent said they would report such misconduct if they saw it. 

According to the report, there have been 37 recorded offenses involving drugs or alcohol in the past nine years, compared to 257 for the most common violation, "neglect of duty," which involves inattentiveness or failure to follow orders.  

In a statement to The Hill, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said the report confirms misconduct is not widespread and that the agency has already taken steps to respond to the incident in Colombia. He said changes include more ethics training, the creation of an inspection hotline and the addition of supervisors to teams on foreign trips. 

"Even with these changes it is important to note that it is difficult to expect that any public or private institution will be able to eliminate all employee misconduct," Leary said. "The Secret Service should be compared to other federal agencies in terms of levels of misconduct."

The DHS inspector general's office itself has been under scrutiny lately. The acting inspector general, Charles K. Edwards, stepped down Monday amid a Senate Homeland Security Committee investigation into reports that he withheld damaging information from reports on the Secret Service and had been susceptible to political pressure.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the ranking member on the subcommittee investigating, said the release of some information had previously been delayed by the inspector general. He said that while he is still reviewing the report, "I plan to ensure this information is adequately accounted for."  

The report gives 14 recommendations, mostly involving procedural changes to make the steps for reporting misconduct clearer.  

While the Secret Service concurred with the recommendations, its director, Julia Pierson, expressed concerns in a Nov. 22 letter included with the report about the methodology of using an electronic survey.

"The survey asked Secret Service employees to speculate about the personal, sexual, and potential criminal activities of co-workers, and to respond with what they believed to be true through rumor and gossip," Pierson wrote. 

She also noted that there could be confusion about the actual number of incidents because respondents all could be referring to the same instance.  

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