DHS secretary apologizes to Chaffetz over Secret Service flap

Greg Nash

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called to personally apologize to House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) Thursday night after reports that Secret Service employees may have circulated personnel information revealing that Chaffetz had once been rejected for a job at the elite agency.

“Secretary Johnson has called for an investigation and if the allegations in the report are true, those responsible should be held accountable,” Homeland Security Department spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in a statement to The Hill on Friday.  

“Last night, Secretary Johnson also called Chairman Chaffetz to personally apologize to him for being put in the situation that he had to acknowledge a matter that should have been kept confidential.”

{mosads}Johnson’s push for an internal investigation came after senior staffers on the Oversight Committee referred the matter to DHS Inspector General John Roth. Whistleblowers within DHS had complained to the House panel that some employees had been circulating private information about Chaffetz in a bid to embarrass him.

“If these claims are true, I find them extremely problematic and disturbing,” said Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the Oversight panel who is personally close to Chaffetz. “It continues to erode the credibility of one of our most important agencies.”

Since grabbing the Oversight gavel in January, Chaffetz has been a vocal critic of the Secret Service’s top brass and has led a House probe into numerous security lapses at the agency, including a March incident involving two intoxicated agents who interrupted an active bomb threat investigation.

Revelations that Chaffetz had applied — and been rejected — for a job at the Secret Service sometime around 2003 was first reported Thursday by The Daily Beast.

Chaffetz, in an interview with The Washington Post, said he had unsuccessfully applied for a job as a Secret Service agent in a Western field office. He did not even make it to the interview stage, and thinks he was turned down because, in his mid-30s, he was perceived as being too old.

“I won’t be intimidated, but I’m sure that’s what it’s intended to do,” Chaffetz told the Post.

Tensions between Chaffetz and the Secret Service have run high in recent days. Chaffetz issued subpoenas for two agents who were present when agents drove through the bomb threat investigation at a White House gate. But Johnson thinks that would publicly expose agents who are responsible for protecting President Obama and the first family.

The Secret Service also has taken heat for allowing a man to scale a perimeter fence and run into the White House, and for failing to detect a drone that crashed on the White House lawn and wasn’t discovered until the next morning.

This story was updated at 1:30 p.m.

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