A congressional committee released a scathing report Thursday detailing several previously undisclosed lapses in security by the United States Secret Service, finding the agency “in crisis,” after a year-long investigation.
Over the last 10 years, the bipartisan report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found there had been 143 security breaches and attempted security breaches at secured facilities.
“The Secret Service is in crisis, the situation is getting worse not better,” committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told NBC News in an interview. “I think the president is in jeopardy and I think he needs to personally get involved. I really do worry about his safety.”
The Secret Service has been under intense scrutiny ever since the 2012 prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia was made public. But that was just the first of several high profile mishaps made by the agency — and breaches in security at the White House itself — that caused three different directors to try and cleanup the elite force over just the last three years.
“The agency’s recent public failures are not a series of isolated events, but the product of an insular culture that has historically been resistant to change,” the report states.
One of the major problems within the USSS, according to the 438-page report, is staffing levels are down and morale is “critically low” within the agency. This causes great concern to members of Congress going into the 2016 presidential election season as the number of candidates traveling the country will even further stretch the agency’s personnel.
“This is a no fail mission and going into a presidential election year where there is stress from coast to coast with multiple candidates and their staffing level down at such low levels," Chaffetz told NBC News. "I don’t know how they possibly pull this off and that scares me.”
Several new revelations were revealed in the report, including emails between two special agents in April 2012 with colorful language depicting “the brazen attitude of those engaged in misconduct” surrounding the Colombia trip.
“Swagg cologne-check/Pimp gear-check/Swagg sunglasses-check/Cash fo dem hoes-check,” one agent emailed. ““Plenty of magnums . . . double check!” the other agent responded according to the congressional report.
The report also exposed how a man posing as Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-N.J. was able to speak to President Obama during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s awards dinner in Washington, DC back in September 2014 without even being properly screened.
Agents also failed to conduct a background check on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention security guard who rode in an elevator with President Obama during an event in Atlanta with a gun and had a prior criminal history.
The highest ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said that while the report may not have been written exactly how he would have liked, he has real concerns about the Secret Service moving forward.
“I care deeply about the safety of the President, his family, and all of the other individuals under Secret Service protection, and I also care deeply about this agency and its dedicated employees, who are among the most elite law enforcement personnel in the world,” Cummings said in a statement. “This bipartisan report warns that Congress cannot make some of the biggest budget cuts in the history of the Secret Service and expect no repercussions to the agency’s staffing and its critical mission. Reversing these problematic trends will require bipartisan and creative work by both the agency and Congress to ensure that the Secret Service is the lean, effective, and respected organization we know it must be.”
The bipartisan report has several recommendations for the agency including restoring staffing to required levels and conducting an inter-agency review to see what non-essential missions the agency might be able to shed.
The Secret Service acknowledges that it faces challenges and is working to address its issues.
"Over the past year, under the leadership of Director Joseph Clancy, the Secret Service has taken a number of steps to address these challenges, including altering the way the Secret Service is structured and managed, striving to hire new members of its workforce, expanding training opportunities for current employees, and implementing the other recommendations of the independent Protective Mission Panel," the Secret Service said in a statement.