Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill 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 JewellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA 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.