A Homeland Security Department report has revealed that U.S. Secret Service agents set out on a course of retaliatory intimidation against a congressman who was investigating possible scandals inside their agency.
The report from the Department's Inspector General, John Roth, says among other things, "dozens" of Secret Service employees illegally accessed the decade-old, unsuccessful job application of Utah's republican congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee.
It also reveals an assistant director suggested leaking other embarrassing information about Chaffetz.
"It doesn't take a lawyer explaining the nuances of the Privacy Act to know that the conduct that occurred here — by dozens of agents in every part of the agency — was wrong," reads the report.
Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security Secretary, has personally apologized to Chaffetz who says Johnson did not tell him if any of the employees have been punished.
The report says U.S. Secret Service employees accessed Chaffetz's 2003 Secret Service job application just after the beginning of March's congressional hearing into a scandal involving drunken behavior at the secret intelligence agency. Some of the employees passed information to others, with at least 45 Service employees viewing the file.
A week later, says the report, Assistant Director Ed Lowery suggested leaking embarrassing information about Chaffetz in a pay back for the investigations by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
On April 2nd, online newspaper The Daily Beast published information about Chaffetz's unsuccessful job application.
The report says Lowery had written an email to Faron Paramore, his fellow Assistant Director, saying "Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair."
Lowery later told the inspector general the email was "reflecting his stress and his anger" and that he had not directed anyone to release information on Chaffetz.
Roth says under U.S. law and Secret Service rules, employees were required to report such behavior to supervisors, but of the 18 supervisors who knew employees had accessed Chaffetz's job application, only one attempted to inform Secret Service director Joseph Clancy.
It remains unclear what punishment, if any, will be handed down in the matter or what will be done to cleanse the rot inside the deeply troubled agency. The case highlights that when secret intelligence agencies, operating largely above or outside the law, are held to account they will use their powerful tools to protect themselves and avoid accountability.