Watchdog reopens probe into Secret Service’s targeting of Chaffetz

Watchdog reopens probe into Secret Service’s targeting of Chaffetz
© Greg Nash

The Secret Service is coming back under the microscope for targeting House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) inspector general on Monday reopened its investigation into some Secret Service agents’ efforts to leak details about Chaffetz’s failed effort to join the agency more than a decade ago.

The move follows Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy’s acknowledgement that he was revising how much he knew about the incident. Clancy knew about some details, he told the DHS’s internal watchdog, despite his initial claims to have been unaware that Chaffetz had unsuccessfully attempt to join the Secret Service.

Clancy’s “different recollection of the events in question” forced the watchdog office to reopen its probe, it said in a brief statement.

The inspector general “will conduct further interviews and take other investigative steps, as appropriate,” before issuing an addendum to its formal report, it added.

Last week, the DHS watchdog office said that 45 Secret Service employees accessed information about Chaffetz’s failed 2003 effort to join the agency in the days before the episode became public. The searches appear to have come as part of an effort to leak embarrassing information about the House Oversight Committee chairman to the press, amid Chaffetz’s scrutiny of the Secret Service. 

The Secret Service is an arm of the DHS.

The inspector general’s conclusion reverberated across Washington, and led to bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill.

On Monday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) announced that he would block three of the White House’s nominees for ambassador posts over the revelation.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama “certainly takes this issue very seriously.”

“This is sensitive information that we’re talking about,” Earnest said. “The thought that something like this would be politicized is wrong.

“The president does have confidence that following up on information that’s included in the inspector general’s report, that [DHS] Secretary [Jeh] Johnson and Director Clancy will ensure that steps are taken both to prevent the disclosure of this type of information in the future and also to hold accountable those that engaged in wrongdoing.”

News of the apparent retaliation overshadowed the Secret Service’s successful efforts during the visit of Pope Francis last month, which coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to Washington and the United Nations General Assembly in New York.