Watchdog confirms Secret Service director's changing story

Posted at 2:13 PM, Oct 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-23 15:13:35-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — First, Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told federal watchdog investigators that he heard a rumor on April 1 about a congressman's failed attempt years earlier to work at the agency.

Then, before the watchdog published a report about agents improperly accessing the personnel file of Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Clancy remembered he actually heard an unsubstantiated rumor about this a week earlier.

Now, the Homeland Security Department's inspector general has confirmed that Clancy not only knew about the rumor as early as March 25, he also learned the information from at least three sources.

The director's changing story about what he knew and when is the latest blemish on an agency beset with embarrassing scandals.

An agent in Washington first looked up Chaffetz's 2003 failed job application 18 minutes after the Utah Republican convened a hearing in March about an allegation of a drunken incident near the White House involving two senior agents. Some agents forwarded the information to others. At least 45 employees viewed the file. The inspector general has said that the actions could represent criminal violations under the U.S. Privacy Act.

In a new report Friday, the inspector general said investigators were unable to determine which details Clancy heard about employees improperly accessing Chaffetz's personnel file or how widely this information was shared. The inspector general reopened its original investigation when Clancy changed his story earlier this month. Clancy told the investigators he did not have an "independent recollection" of being told about the rumors, but arrived at the March 25 date based on what others had told him.

March 25 was also the date of an informal luncheon of Clancy and some former Secret Service directors.

Julia Pierson, the director who immediately preceded Clancy, told investigators that it was Clancy himself who told the former directors at the lunch that Chaffetz had applied years earlier to work at the agency but was turned down. She said Clancy did not tell them the source of the information or how he was handling it internally. Pierson resigned earlier this year after embarrassing security lapses in the agency's efforts to protect the president were revealed.

Neither the Secret Service nor Chaffetz's office responded immediately to requests for comment.