The three members of an elite Secret Service squad, placed on leave for heavy drinking this week while preparing for President Obama’s visit to the Netherlands, were just the latest example of agents coming under scrutiny for misbehavior tied to alcohol.
Records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by The Washington Times in 2012 reveal dozens of accusations sent to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general concerning misconduct by Secret Service employees, contractors and others dating back to 2003.
Many of the cases in the highly redacted 229-page log concerned little more than investigative “tips,” but the records did show more than two dozen misconduct accusations involving alcohol, including details about off-duty arrests on drunken-driving charges.
This week’s incident in the Netherlands came to the agency’s attention after an agent was found passed out in a hallway, according to news reports. It comes two years after agents were caught with prostitutes during advance work for a presidential trip to Cartagena, Colombia — an incident that led to rules changes, including tight restrictions on consuming alcohol during official travel.
The previous cases uncovered by The Times in 2012 underscore how persistent the problems had been even before Cartagena — even if only among a handful of employees.
In one case, the inspector general learned of an agent arrested with a .09 blood alcohol level after the agent’s vehicle got stuck in a ditch. In a separate 2011 case, a special agent was stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence and failed a Breathalyzer test. Also, in 2008, a uniformed officer was arrested for drunken driving off duty after slamming into a telephone pole.
Another special agent assigned to the “Clinton protective detail” was arrested in 2009 for drunken driving while off duty, records show.
The log obtained by The Times doesn’t indicate how the internal investigations concluded, but Secret Service officials are quick to point to a December 2013 report by the inspector general that found there’s no evidence that misconduct in the agency is widespread.
Still, the report found the Secret Service “should continue to monitor and address excessive alcohol misconduct in its workforce.”
The IG surveyed more than 2,500 employees and found about 10 percent were aware of personnel engaged in excessive alcohol consumption, with nearly half reporting that they witnessed the behavior firsthand. Of those 138 respondents, 100 reported that the drinking happened during a protective assignment.
Edwin Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said in an email that the IG report concluded there’s no evidence that service employees “frequently engage in behaviors contrary to conduct standards that could create a security concern.”
“Since Director [Julia] Pierson assumed leadership of the Secret Service in March 2013, she has taken decisive steps to address issues revealed by Cartagena and the resulting investigations,” he said.
Among other reforms, Mr. Donovan said, an inspection hotline was created so employees can more easily report any misconduct they witness.