Washington, DC - Last year various individuals within the United States Secret Service improperly accessed and distributed information contained within Secret Service personnel records about a job application made years ago by an individual who is now a Member of Congress. The same information was also wrongfully leaked to the press.
At the time, both Director Clancy and I personally apologized to the Member of Congress, and I asked the DHS Inspector General to investigate the matter further. The matter was also referred to the Department of Justice for potential criminal investigation and prosecution, and the Department of Justice declined to take action.
The Inspector General issued his report on the matter in September 2015. As reflected in the IG’s report, a Secret Service database containing sensitive personally identifiable information about a Member of Congress was accessed on approximately 60 occasions by Secret Service personnel. The IG concluded that the majority of these instances were in violation of the Privacy Act, Secret Service policy, and DHS policy.
Following the issuance of this report, we took up the matter of accountability.
Given the nature and scope of the IG’s investigation and findings, Director Clancy and I determined that he would be recused from determining accountability, and that these matters would be decided by me. Because of the number of employees involved, I delegated to the DHS Deputy Under Secretary for Management accountability decisions for all General Schedule employees of the Secret Service, and I decided accountability with respect to members of the Senior Executive Service (“SES”) within the Secret Service.
We have now determined the matter of accountability.
In all, the conduct of 57 Secret Service personnel was reviewed, including 11 at the SES level. Of those, 41 are receiving some level of discipline. This discipline includes a letter of reprimand to one individual, suspended discipline contingent on no further misconduct for a period of five years, and suspensions from duty without pay for periods of up to 45 days. The one individual found by the Inspector General to have disclosed the private information to an outside source, the Washington Post, has resigned from the Secret Service. I found no basis to take any action with respect to the Director or Deputy Director.
The Privacy Act limits public disclosure of further details regarding these actions. Also, the process for the discipline of civil service personnel is governed by a series of laws, regulations and policies for the protection of our employees. Each employee disciplined has the right, in one form or another, to challenge the actions taken.
Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service. From Director Clancy, I have been told that tighter processes are now in place to limit access to personally identifiable information and to highlight for employees the consequences of a breach of that data.
The Secret Service is the finest protection agency in the world. It is for this reason that we must demand of its men and women the finest standards for professionalism and integrity. Under the leadership of Director Clancy, I hope and expect the Secret Service has put sad episodes like this behind it.