Secret Service Should Protect People, Not Attack Them

Common Cause Urges Tough Response to Computer Breach and Attacks on Rep. Chaffetz

Secret Service agents and employees who pulled personal information about a member of Congress from the agency’s computers and used it in an attempt to embarrass him must be severely punished and the agency must tighten its hold on such data to prevent future breaches, Common Cause President Miles Rapoport said Thursday.

“The Secret Service is supposed to protect people, not attack them,” Rapoport said. “It’s intolerable that any federal employee, particularly one working for an agency entrusted with the lives of our government’s top leaders, would take part in a smear campaign directed at a member of Congress and would access personal information in agency computers in the effort.”

An Inspector General’s report released Wednesday details how dozens of Secret Service agents in offices around the world tapped the agency’s computer files last March to obtain and disseminate information about Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, head of the House committee charged with overseeing Secret Service operations.

The computer breaches began less than 20 minutes after Chaffetz opened a hearing examining a serious breakdown of security around the White House and the first family.

“This is more than just a simple breach of computer security,” Rapoport said. “It’s an attack on our government’s system of checks and balances, an attempt to choke off congressional oversight of the executive branch.

“If personal data about a member of Congress can be accessed and passed around so freely in what is arguably the nation’s most elite law enforcement agency, it’s no wonder that millions of Americans worry that information about all of us, stored in all sorts of government computers, might somehow be used against us.”