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Operation Moonlight: Diversion Was 'Serious Lapse' for Secret Service

An investigator called it a “serious lapse in judgment.”
Image: A member of the US Secret Service outside the White House
A member of the U.S. Secret Service watches as tourist visit the south side of the White House in September.Mark Wilson / Getty Images, file

Top Secret Service officials had no justification for diverting agents from their posts near the White House to check on a neighborhood dispute a Secret Service employee was involved in almost an hour away, an investigation has found. “This constituted a serious lapse in judgment,” John Roth, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who led the investigation, said in a statement Wednesday.

The investigation found that agents from a team known as Prowler, normally assigned to patrol the area around the White House, were diverted to the neighborhood on five days in July 2011. President Barack Obama was in the White House on two of those days. No Secret Service personnel interviewed for the investigation believed that presidential security was compromised, the inspector general said.

Still, the findings are the latest embarrassment for a reeling agency. Director Julia Pierson resigned under pressure earlier this month after a series of security breaches. The 2011 lapse happened under her predecessor, Mark Sullivan.

The female employee involved in the dispute with a neighbor was an assistant in Sullivan’s office. The employee later sought and received a restraining order against the neighbor, who eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. The diversion was known as Operation Moonlight or Operation Moonshine, the report said. The Washington Post first reported details of it in May.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan responded to the report by saying: "We received the OIG memorandum and we're reviewing it for its findings."


— Kristen Welker, Michael Kosnar and Erin McClam