Secret Service Agents Tried to Dig Up Dirt on Congressional Critic

Forty agents dug into the confidential files of a Republican congressman.

ByABC News
October 1, 2015, 10:50 AM

— -- Just a day after President Obama praised the Secret Service for successfully protecting Pope Francis and the president of China, the agency is back in the headlines with another scandal.

The Inspector General of Homeland Security found that 40 agents dug into the confidential personnel files of Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who was leading an investigation into a string of serious security lapses and scandals at the Secret Service.

The agents were looking for something that might embarrass the Congressman in the job application he filed with the Secret Service years before he was elected to Congress, according to the IG report. The office found that the internal agency data search was launched just 18 minutes after a hearing chaired by Chaffetz slammed the Secret Service for lax discipline and poor performance.

Chaffetz, 48, is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The report noted that 18 Secret Service officials were aware that agents were digging into the confidential personnel files, but did nothing to stop it.

"It scares me, it really does,” Chaffetz told ABC News. “It is intimidating, and it is absolutely, totally wrong."

In one email uncovered by the Inspector General, the Secret Service's assistant director overseeing the agency's training reached out to a senior public affairs officer, writing, "some information that he (Chaffetz) might find embarrassing needs to get out, just to be fair."

The report notes that top Secret Service officials believed Chaffetz was being so hard on the agency because he had been passed over for a job years ago.

Chaffetz said, "If this person was in charge of training the Secret Service agents and officers, holy cow. I don't even know what to say about that.”

Chaffetz has been investigating a series of scandals at the agency, ranging from allegations of soliciting prostitutes, drunkenness and a serious breach of security when a fence-jumper armed with a knife managed to get all the way into the White House before being stopped.

Secret Service Director James Clancy and his boss, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, issued apologies to Chaffetz Wednesday night. Director Clancy promised that he would hold the offending agents accountable.