Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the bombastic Republican congressman from Utah who recently announced his candidacy for speaker of the House, has made something of a name for himself in his role as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. There, he’s led high-profile investigations of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Planned Parenthood, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Secret Service, among other organizations.
Evidently, some in the Secret Service didn’t like being the subject of a congressional investigation. (You’ll recall that the agency, which is tasked with protecting the president, has suffered a recent spate of embarrassments and security breaches — most notably, when it failed to prevent an intruder from actually entering the White House last year.) But rather than submit to a fully warranted investigation by Congress to get to the bottom of the safety snafus, higher-ups in the Secret Service instead decided to go after Representative Chaffetz personally.
The Washington Post published the disturbing details last week. “An assistant director of the Secret Service urged that unflattering information the agency had in its files about a congressman critical of the service should be made public,” the Post reported, “two days later, a news Web site reported that . . . Jason Chaffetz . . . had applied to be a Secret Service agent in 2003 and been rejected.” Some 45 secret service employees, including supervisors, viewed Mr. Chaffetz’s personal file, the Post noted, which, by law, was supposed to be kept private.
Representative Chaffetz is not totally blameless in this situation. He should have disclosed to the public his relationship with the agency that he was tasked with investigating. But there is simply no excuse for an allegedly nonpartisan government body accessing and releasing private information about one of the people’s representatives.
People within the Secret Service need to be held to account for this chicanery.
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