Secret Service agents are famously willing to take it – as in taking a bullet for the President or anyone else for whom they are providing security. They are also, it seems, willing to dish it out. Though not quite so lethally. Just in the nasty, bureaucratic, secretive ways of Washington. From Eric Katz at Government Executive, we learn that:
Secret Service agents illegally accessed the “sensitive personal information” of a congressman who once applied for a job at the agency, which was then shared with the media to embarrass the lawmaker who had led oversight investigations into the agency’s scandals.
… 45 Secret Service employees accessed the job application files of Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who was denied a position at the agency in 2003.
In doing so, they:
… violated the Privacy Act, as well as agency and department policies.
This was not just the work of a few rogue operators. As it turns out:
Ed Lowery, assistant director at the Secret Service, appeared to have encouraged employees to leak the information. “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out,” Lowery said in an email ...
Also, according to an inspector general’s report:
Eighteen supervisors “knew or should have known” that Chaffetz’s personal information was being accessed,
Fear not, however, says Department of Homeland Security boss Jeh Johnson. Because he is confident that Secret Service head, Joe Clancy:
“will take appropriate action to hold accountable those who violated any laws or the policies of this department.”
Which sounds real good and real tough. But, then, we learn from Carol D. Leonnig and Jerry Markon, at the Washington Post, that Director Clancy:
... knew that unflattering, private information about a congressman was circulating among agency staff members before it was leaked to the news media, contrary to an earlier statement made to federal investigators, according to two government officials briefed on the investigation.
So, when Johnson says, “Activities like those described in the [IG’s] report must not, and will not, be tolerated,” Does that mean that all the guilty, to include Director Clancy, will pay a hard price? Or will things work out with the Secret Service the way they did at the IRS, the VA, and all those other agencies where, we have been told, intolerable conduct will not be tolerated … except when it is. Which is, pretty much, all the time.
Jay Cost, in this wonderful piece, What the Hell Is Going On? tries to account for The fraying of the national political consensus.
Could be, in part, because the government operates, almost routinely, as a law unto itself.