Alcohol plays role in reports involving the Secret ServiceRecords show DUIs
By Jim McElhatton
The Washington Times
One U.S. Secret Service special agent drank too much alcohol and got caught after a minor traffic accident. Another agent got nabbed after driving into a telephone pole. Yet another got arrested after getting stuck in a ditch.
As the Secret Service deals with the ongoing fallout from an embarrassing prostitution scandal, newly released records are laying bare the extent of drunken driving and other alcohol-related misconduct over the years.
Arrests spanning nearly a decade were revealed in a highly redacted log on file with the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, which released the 229-page document to The Washington Times and other media organizations through a Freedom of Information Act request.
When the records first became public last week, Secret Service officials were quick to point out that the vast majority of misconduct accusations received by the agency involved numerous complaints and did not specifically target Secret Service employees.
But while many of the log entries may seem frivolous, the records also revealed more than 40 individual entries that described arrests of agency personnel over their off-duty behavior, with about half of the cases involving alcohol.
The case log redacts the names of the agency employees, the dates of the criminal charges and the names of the law enforcement agencies making the arrests. In some cases, officials just described receiving information about an employee's arrest, and those records often but do not always make clear whether an arrest occurred.
But in other instances, agency notations about pending court dates, arrests and specific charges leave little doubt that some Secret Service employees have had serious run-ins with law enforcement.
The documents also provide a window into the ongoing investigation into Secret Service agents preparing for President Obama's trip to Colombia earlier this year who were implicated in a prostitution scandal. The report, confirming already public details, said 11 Secret Service personnel were potentially involved in the suspected misconduct.
The scandal prompted both a public apology and defense of the agency by Mark Sullivan, director of the Secret Service, who testified before a Senate committee in May. In his testimony, Mr. Sullivan suggested that alcohol may have played a role in the scandal.
"I have tried to figure this out for a month and a half - what would ever possess people to exhibit this type of behavior?" he said. "And I can tell you that I do not think this is indicative of the overwhelming majority of our men and women. ... But I just think that between the alcohol, and I don't know, the environment, these individuals did some really dumb things."
Most of the records provide scant information about the outcomes of the cases and to what extent the employees faced disciplinary actions after arrests, if any.
Max Milien, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said the agency has its own internal Office of Professional Responsibility that investigates misconduct.
Citing agency policy, he declined to discuss any individual personnel actions but said federal rules allow for sanctions ranging from verbal or written warnings to suspension and dismissal.
"Allegations of misconduct, whether they are received at the Secret Service, at [Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General] or an anonymous hotline are taken seriously and fully investigated," he said in a statement.
Secret Service officials also said in a statement that overall, the complaint log "simply reflects an intake log ... that in some way either mention or have been referred to the Secret Service. It includes allegations compiled over an eight-year period of time. The vast majority did not involve alleged misconduct by Secret Service agents or officers."
But dozens of entries contained in the newly released complaint log do refer specifically to agency employees.
In May 2010, for instance, officials opened an investigation over a report that a special agent serving on the "Clinton Protective Detail" had been arrested in 2009 for driving while intoxicated in a personal vehicle during off-duty hours. The documents stated that the agent submitted to a Breathalyzer test and remained on full duty while awaiting a court appearance.
In a separate case, a special agent was arrested in July 2006 for "resisting arrest, public intoxication and reckless damage," records show. A year later, another officer in the Secret Service's White House branch was arrested for driving under the influence.
One log entry said an employee was arrested for driving while intoxicated after hitting a telephone pole, while another described the arrest of a special agent by the Department of Wildlife Services in an unnamed jurisdiction for "operating a watercraft while intoxicated and reckless operation of a watercraft."
In 2009, a special agent was arrested for driving under the influence after a minor traffic accident with another driver, who also was arrested on the same charge. In 2005, in an incident that did not result in criminal charges, an employee who was assigned "as the detail leader for the president of the Dominican Republic" was relieved from duty "after reporting for work apparently under the influence of alcohol," records show.
Not all of the arrests were alcohol-related. Other entries described arrests involving assault, domestic violence, disorderly conduct and burglary.
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