Secret Service Is 'Agency in Crisis' – Congress Unveils More Security Screw-Ups Than We Knew
"Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues and security breaches persist," Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz says of the Secret Service
A new report has concluded that the Secret Service is an “agency in crisis,” and revealed 143 previously undisclosed Secret Service security breaches or attempted breaches that have occurred in the last 10 years – including multiple involving President Barack Obama and the White House.
The critical report, released Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was the outcome of a bipartisan congressional investigation spurred by a series of high-profile scandals for the agency, in particular a South American prostitution scandal that became public in 2012.
Among the newly revealed security mishaps are one in 2014 in which a man posing as New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne Jr. walked unchecked past a distracted Secret Service agent and into a secure backstage area, where he talked to Obama; and another five days later in which a woman walked backstage without being properly screened at a gala dinner where Obama was a guest.
One week later, an employee was allowed, without being screened, into a Los Angeles hotel where Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett were staying.
In another incident in April 2013, four people went fishing on a lake in the backyard of Vice President Joe Biden‘s Delaware home. Biden’s alarm system wasn’t working properly at the time and the fishing foursome weren’t discovered until neighbors called to report them to the Secret Service.
In spring 2014, a Czech citizen with an expired visa entered the property of former president George H.W. Bush and stayed there unnoticed for an hour.
The report points the finger at both leadership failings within the agency and what the committee called a “staffing crisis” resulting from budget cuts imposed by Congress. The agency is understaffed and its employees are overworked, the 438-page report also found.
“This report reveals that the Secret Service is in crisis,” said Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues and security breaches persist. Strong leadership from the top is required to fix the systemic mismanagement within the agency and to restore it to its former prestige.”
“The situation is getting worse not better,” Chaffetz added. “The president is in jeopardy, and he better personally get involved in fixing this.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Secret Service spokesperson Nicole Mainor said: “Our leadership has long acknowledged that, in addition to its many successes, the Secret Service faces many challenges. 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 is taking the time to give the document the serious and thorough review a report from this Committee deserves,” the statement continued. “Addressing all of these challenges will take time and we are committed to continuing to improve the Secret Service, address its challenges, and build on its proud tradition of accomplishment.”