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Sleepy, Overworked Secret Service Officers Endanger Those They Protect: IG Report

Secret Service officers' fatigue "may pose an immediate or potential danger" to those they protect, a federal watchdog warns
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Secret Service officers' fatigue from travel, long hours and overtime "may pose an immediate or potential danger" to agents and those they protect, according to a federal watchdog report.

"We are concerned that the Secret Service's staffing and scheduling process does not ensure that officers receive adequate breaks while on duty and time off between shifts," the inspector general's office of the Department of Homeland Security — the Secret Service's parent agency — said in an alert made public Thursday.

The management alert examined two incidents in which agents were discovered sleeping at their posts over the summer — by the inspector general's own investigators, who are conducted a larger inquiry into the security of communications at the scandal-plagued Secret Service.

Details of the incidents are spelled out in the alert (PDF), with the names of those involved edited out.

The Secret Service strongly disputed the inspector general's conclusions in the two specific cases, saying in a statement that "scheduling and staffing issues were not contributing factors to the misconduct by these officers, nor do they serve as an excuse for their behavior."

"This matter is behind us and disciplinary action is well in process," the agency said. "The Management Alert offers neither new information nor value to the Secret Service and should not warrant the ongoing attention of the OIG."

The Secret Service statement didn't address other concerns raised in the alert, however — particularly "an exhausted work force with low morale" at the White House.

Image: Secret Service with President Barack Obama in New York
Secret Service agents brace themselves against the prop wash from Marine One as President Barack Obama arrives at in New York last month.KEVIN LAMARQUE / Reuters — file

The alert cited a December 2014 inquiry by the Secret Service's own Protective Mission Panel into security at the White House compound, which found that "officers reported regularly working 13 days of 12-hour shifts, followed by one day off."

"The most common refrain that the Panel heard from all sources within the Service, from line agents and officers to the director, from special agents to UD [Uniformed Division] officers, is that the Service is overstretched, with personnel working far too many hours," the inspector general's alert said. "The result, according to all, is an exhausted work force with low morale."

The alert said the Secret Service promised to pursue a strategy to identify staffing needs, increase its workforce and "effectively retain current staff."

The alert was addressed to Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, whom President Barack Obama appointed in February to clean up a long series of scandals at the agency. It didn't accuse Clancy of any wrongdoing.

The elite protection service has been slammed with numerous allegations of lapses and wrongdoing in recent years and is the subject of multiple investigations by Congress and the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier this month, the Secret Service apologized to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, for violating federal privacy law by improperly accessing sensitive personal information about him dozens of times in little more than a week.

Chaffetz, who has aggressively pursued allegations of misconduct as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called the unauthorized retrieval of his unsuccessful application to join the Secret Service in 2003 "a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me."