Top Secret Service officials ordered agents responsible for patrolling the White House perimeter to abandon their posts to protect a friend of the agency’s director in 2011, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The agents, who were sent more than an hour away from D.C., were told that then-Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan was concerned that his assistant was being harassed by her neighbor, three people familiar with the operation told the Post.
The agents were members of the surveillance team that patrols the outskirts of the White House compound and responds to reported problems, code-named "Prowler." Agents inside the Washington field office were concerned that the activities, dubbed "Operation Moonlight," increased security risks to the White House.
The news threatens to create new furor over how the Secret Service has been run following a series of public black eyes over the last few years, including a scandal in which Secret Service agents hired prostitutes in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.
Sullivan resigned 10 months after that scandal.
The latest story had some in Washington up in arms.
"You have to ask if there is a leadership culture that needs to be ripped out at the Secret Service. This is just one more example of a leadership failure at the Secret Service. Very, very concerning," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Sunday morning on CBS's "Face the Nation."
"When you have someone removed from a post whose primary responsibility is to protect the president, and the White House and its occupants, that is very, very concerning."