Zinke and his wife took security detail on vacation to Turkey, Greece: report

Zinke and his wife took security detail on vacation to Turkey, Greece: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds Killing bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens on National Park Service lands in Alaska is wrong Overnight Energy: Biden campaign says he would revoke Keystone XL permit | EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement | Tensions emerge on Natural Resources panel over virtual meetings MORE reportedly took a security detail when he and his wife vacationed in Turkey and Greece last year.

A watchdog group said the move could be considered a "questionable" use of taxpayer resources, Politico reported.

According to Politico, official documents regarding Zinke's travel don't specify how much the security team cost, how many personnel accompanied Zinke and his wife or if the team was with the couple throughout their whole trip.


Department spokeswoman Heather Swift cited terrorist attacks in the countries Zinke visited to defend the decision to provide the secretary with U.S. Park Police officers for his security.

“The United States secretary of the Interior is in the presidential line of succession and has access to sensitive and classified information, which makes his protection a matter of national security,” Swift told Politico.

“In 2016 there were at least 5 terrorist attacks in Istanbul where the secretary traveled. During the period of travel there were several security incidents and threats in the region. Both of these considerations further merited a prudent security presence.”

Nick Schwellenbach, director of investigations at the government watchdog group Project On Government Oversight, said it is "not necessarily an abuse of authority or a waste of taxpayer dollars if there's a credible threat."

"But it can be questionable if an agency chief just wants a big entourage and the trappings of power,” he told Politico.

“Security personnel are not errand boys or girls and agency leaders are not royalty," he continued.

"When it's a private vacation, there must be even more scrutiny given to these security arrangements than usual."

Former Interior Secretary Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellNational parks pay the price for Trump's Independence Day spectacle Overnight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone MORE, who served during the Obama administration, didn't travel with a security team.

“I think, in her mind, it would have defeated the point of ‘getting away' and would have amounted to a totally unnecessary expense to taxpayers,” Kate Kelly, who worked as a senior adviser to Jewell, said, according to Politico.

Chris Lu, who was a White House Cabinet administrator during the Obama administration, told the news outlet that Cabinet members should not bring a security detail on a personal vacation unless there is a "compelling national security justification."

Zinke earlier this month pushed back against claims that he's used taxpayer money to fly on private planes, telling a congressional committee, "I never took a private jet anywhere."

A number of Zinke's chartered flights are under investigation by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General.