US Secret Service agents disciplined over congressman

Washington (AFP) – The US authorities have disciplined 41 Secret Service personnel for improperly accessing and leaking the personal information of a congressman who had scrutinized the agency, the Department of Homeland Security said.

The announcement comes after a report in September by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General accused the Secret Service employees of accessing the personal files of Republican congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who has led several inquiries into alleged misconduct at the agency.

They were punished with measures ranging from a letter of reprimand to suspensions without pay for up to 45 days, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement on Thursday.

One person found to have given information about Chaffetz to the Washington Post resigned from the service, he said.

“Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service,” Johnson said.

Federal privacy laws prevented the disclosure of more details, he added.

Secret Service employees had accessed Chaffetz’s job application more than 60 times — even though they had “no official need to query Chairman Chaffetz’ name,” the report in September said.

Soon after Chaffetz held a hearing on the agency in March, he was reported to have been rejected for a Secret Service job in 2003.

The incident is the latest embarrassment for the Secret Service as it tries to recover from a string of scandals.