Secret Service Agents Improperly Diverted for Dispute

U.S. Secret Service agents assigned to duty near the White House were improperly sent to assist an agency employee engaged in a dispute with a neighbor, an inspector general’s report found, the latest in a series of lapses that already has led to the resignation of the director.

The agents, part of a unit that responds to suspicious situations near the White House, were dispatched to the agency employee’s home in suburban Maryland, a 50-minute drive from their duty station, to check on her welfare and conduct criminal background checks of her neighbor, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security found in a report released today. They called the 2011 mission “operation moonshine.”

“These agents, who were there to protect the president and the White House, were improperly diverted for an impermissible purpose,” DHS Inspector John Roth said in an e-mailed statement. “This constituted a serious lapse in judgment.”

While Secret Service employees told the inspector general that their job of protecting the president wasn’t compromised, the report said the team “was diverted for a considerable period of time” over several days. On at least two of those days, President Barack Obama was at the White House.

The inspector general’s report said there was no legal authorization for using agents to protect an employee involved in a private dispute.

The director of the agency at the time, Mark Sullivan, retired following a scandal involving Secret Service agents and prostitutes in Colombia. He was succeeded by Julia Pierson, who resigned last month after security breaches including a man who jumped the White House fence and ran into the mansion before agents apprehended him.

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