An extensive, 18-month investigation released three months ago by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who oversees the Secret Service, concluded that the agency does not breed a culture of such misbehavior.
"Although individual employees have engaged in misconduct or inappropriate behavior, we did not find evidence that misconduct is widespread" or that "employees frequently engage in behaviors ... that could cause a security concern," according to the report. "Furthermore, we did not find any evidence that [Secret Service] leadership has fostered an environment that tolerates inappropriate behavior.”
The internal watchdog's investigators reviewed records, surveyed more than 2,500 employees and interviewed more than 200 supervisors, managers and senior officials. Overall, the report cited 824 incidents of employee misconduct over the past nine years, ranging from offenses such as "sleeping on the job" to "drugs and alcohol." In that same time period, the Secret Service suspended an employee's security clearance 195 times for alleged misconduct, with those suspensions becoming more frequent in recent years and nearly one-in-ten involving sexual behavior "that could cause a security concern."
Still, the inspector general's report concluded Secret Service employees "do not frequently engage in behavior that causes a security concern."
Sullivan, the former director, echoed that sentiment during a Senate hearing in May 2012 on the Cartagena scandal, when he apologized "for the misconduct of these employees and the distraction it has caused."
"The overwhelming majority of the men and women who serve in this agency exemplify our five core values of justice, duty, courage, honesty and loyalty," he testified. "On a daily basis, they are prepared to lay down their lives to protect others in service to the country. ... Clearly, the misconduct that took place in Cartagena, Colombia, is not representative of these volumes and of the high ethical standards we demand from our nearly 7,000 employees."
At today’s hearing on Capitol Hill, one lawmaker expressed concern that incidents in Cartagena and Amsterdam “create a circumstance where we get less support from the public.”
"Much of the country's attention will be focused on [the drinking], rather than the Secret Service agents who are risking their lives today to protect the president and are prepared to do anything that's necessary. They won't get much attention," Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., told Comey during the unrelated House Appropriations subcommittee hearing this morning.
Comey agreed, saying, "There's no doubt that our problems get bigger headlines -- all of us in government -- than our successes.”