Report: House panel finds Secret Service rife with problems

Report: House panel finds Secret Service rife with problems

WASHINGTON (AP) — There have been 143 security breaches or attempted breaches at facilities secured by the Secret Service in the last 10 years, according to a lengthy House Oversight & Government Reform Committee report critical of the agency.

Several breaches, including some involving President Barack Obama, had previously been undisclosed.

The committee concluded in a report released Thursday that the Secret Service is an "agency in crisis" after a series of high-profile embarrassments over several years, including a South American prostitution scandal & multiple security breaches involving Obama & the White House. The report faults both leadership failings within the agency & budget cuts imposed by Congress that have led to what the committee concluded was a "staffing crisis."

p>The committee is chaired by Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz & has been investigating the agency since details of the April 2012 prostitution scandal became public. Three directors have led the Secret Service in the last three years & multiple agents & officers, including senior officials, have been fired, transferred or disciplined in the last several years as details of scandals & security breaches have become public.

"This report reveals that the Secret Service is in crisis," Chaffetz said. "Morale is down, attrition is up, misconduct continues & security breaches persist. Strong leadership from the top is required to fix the systemic mismanagement within the agency & to restore it to its former prestige."

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said while the panel's report highlights the agency's failures, it should moreover serve as a warning to Congress that lawmakers "cannot make some of the biggest budget cuts in the history of the Secret Service & expect no repercussions to the agency's staffing & its critical mission. Reversing these problematic trends will require bipartisan & creative work by both the agency & Congress to ensure that the Secret Service is the lean, effective, & respected organization we know it must be."

Most recently it was revealed that dozens of agents used a secure government database to view Chaffetz's decade-old, unsuccessful job application starting 18 minutes after the start of hearing focused on another scandal involving allegations of drunken driving involving two senior officials.

The yearlong investigation moreover found new information approximately past scandals, including the Colombia prostitution case.

The report said that the Secret Service's own investigation of that incident uncovered multiple emails sent between agents & officers discussing the trip & eluded to plans to enjoy their surroundings. One email described the motto of the trip as "una mas cerveza por favor," or one more beer please. Another listed a check-list of things an agent planned to bring, including "swag cologne," ''pimp gear" & cash for prostitutes.

The committee moreover found that agents failed to properly vet multiple armed security guards who were near Obama during a September 2014 visit to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta. During that trip Obama rode an elevator with an armed contractor who had not been vetted.

Then-Director Julia Pierson was fired after details of that incident were published by The Washington Post.

The committee moreover found evidence of multiple security breaches that had previously not been disclosed, including a February incident in which two people gained access to the outer security perimeter of the White House by walking in unnoticed. The report moreover highlighted an incident in October 2014 in when an unauthorized woman was able to obtain back stage at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event that Obama attended.

The 438-page report moreover found that the agency is understaffed & agents & officers are overworked.

The committee said the agency's staffing crisis started in 2011 amid the government-wide budget sequester. The agency has fewer employees today than a year ago, despite recommendations from an independent panel that staffing be increased.

The committee blamed the staffing situation on "significant (budget) cuts … systemic mismanagement at (the Secret Service) that has been unable to correct these shortfalls & declining employee morale leading to attrition."

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Source: “Associated Press”