Rep. Chaffetz responds to report on Secret Service activity: ‘Certain lines should never be crossed’

Posted at 4:36 PM, Sep 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-30 23:39:46-04

WASHINGTON -- Congressman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican representing Utah's Third Congressional District, issued a statement Wednesday in response to a report that employees of the U.S. Secret Service improperly accessed and circulated sensitive personal information of his, and he said he believes it was an attempt to intimidate him.

According to information from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of which Chaffetz is the chairman, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Inspector General issued a report on their investigation into  "U.S. Secret Service employees improperly accessing and circulating sensitive, personal information of the chairman."

Chaffetz issued a statement in response, saying he felt the move was a "tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass." See below for the full text of his statement.

“Certain lines should never be crossed. The unauthorized access and distribution of my personal information crossed that line. It was a tactic designed to intimidate and embarrass me and frankly, it is intimidating. It’s scary to think about all the possible dangers in having your personal information exposed. The work of the committee, however, will continue. I remain undeterred in conducting proper and rigorous oversight.”

According to FOX News, several employees of the Secret Service accessed an old, unsuccessful job application from the Congressman. An assistant director reportedly suggested "leaking embarrassing information to retaliate against Rep. Jason Chaffetz." Chaffetz was investigating scandals inside the agency at the time, according to FOX News.

FOX News reports an Inspector General for Homeland Security, John Roth, stated that the actions of those employees could rise to the level of criminal violations as described by the U.S. Privacy Act.

"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," the report said, according to FOX News.

Click here for more on the investigation from FOX News.

According to a press release from the Office of the Inspector General, "The OIG identified 18 supervisors — including the Acting Chief of Staff and the Deputy Director — who knew or should have known that Chairman Chaffetz’ personal information was being accessed. Yet, with a single exception, there was no evidence that any of the managers attempted to inform up the chain or to stop or remediate the activity."

Roth stated in the press release, “This episode reflects extremely poor judgment and a lack of care on the part of a number of Secret Service employees. Given the sensitivity of the information with which these agents are entrusted, particularly with regard to their protective function, this episode is deeply disturbing. Secret Service leadership must ensure that behavior like this will not be tolerated.”

Tim Chambless of the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute says it’s a humiliating moment for the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security.

“This is not an embarrassment for Congressman Chaffetz," Chambless said. "It’s an embarrassment for the Secret Service, yet the Secret Service is a vital organization, a vital agency, and we’re not going to shut down the Secret Service."

Since this is a personnel matter, Chambless believes after Wednesday’s public apology, the rest of the incident will be handled behind closed doors. While Chambless does believe some members will lose their jobs, he doesn’t believe it’s the worst leak in the agency’s history.

“It was an application," Chambless said. "There was no interview. For whatever reason, it’s unclear, his application didn’t go anywhere. If you’re a public figure this is something the public maybe should know."

With that said, Chambless does believe Chaffetz has a bright future in politics.

Jeh. C Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, also issued a statement Wednesday in response to the report. See below for that statement:

"In April, I asked the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General to investigate reports of improper access and distribution of information by U.S. Secret Service employees pertaining to Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

The Inspector General has recently completed his investigation, and has found a number of instances of inappropriate conduct by Secret Service personnel. At the time, I stated that if the allegations were true, those responsible should be held accountable, and I reiterate that today.

With the investigation completed, I am confident that U.S. Secret Service Director Joe Clancy will take appropriate action to hold accountable those who violated any laws or the policies of this Department. I also reiterate the apology I issued in April to Chairman Chaffetz. Activities like those described in the report must not, and will not, be tolerated."