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Dozens at Secret Service Punished for Violating Congressman's Privacy

The Secret Service has already apologized to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who has led numerous inquiries into alleged misconduct by the troubled agency.
Image: Rep. Jason Chaffetz
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, was the subject of repeated violations of privacy protections by dozens of Secret Service workers, investigators say.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

More than 40 Secret Service employees have been disciplined for improperly accessing sensitive private information about a prominent congressional critic last year, an "appalled" Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday.

One Secret Service employee has resigned, Johnson said, while 40 others received punishments as light as letters placed in their personnel files to as severe as 45-day suspensions from duty without pay.

None of those disciplined Thursday were identified because of — perhaps ironically — federal privacy laws.

The Secret Service and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, apologized last year to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who as chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has led numerous inquiries into alleged misconduct by the agency.

Chaffetz unsuccessfully applied to join the Secret Service in 2003. A report in September by the DHS inspector general found that beginning in March 2015, the 41 Secret Service employees accessed his job application more than 60 times — even though they had "no official need to query Chairman Chaffetz' name."

Related: Read the Entire Inspector General's Report (PDF)

Over nine days last March, the job application was accessed by employees in the public relations office, the countersurveillance division, the division overseeing protection for former President Bill Clinton, the training division and at least 15 domestic and overseas field offices, the IG report found.

According to the report, the protected information was disclosed to a reporter for The Washington Post — a tactic that Chaffetz called a clear attempt to intimidate him into backing off his investigations of the troubled Secret Service.

That employee resigned, Johnson said Thursday, who said the report made it clear that "the majority of these instances were in violation of the Privacy Act, Secret Service policy, and DHS policy."

Johnson said he was "appalled by the episode," which he said "brought real discredit to the Secret Service."

"The Secret Service is the finest protection agency in the world," he said. "It is for this reason that we must demand of its men and women the finest standards for professionalism and integrity.

"I hope and expect the Secret Service has put sad episodes like this behind it," he added.