Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The new head of the Secret Service admitted to Congress on Tuesday that he didn’t learn until days later that two senior agents supposedly were drunk when they drove into a barrier at the White House — and only then from an anonymous email.
Joseph Clancy has been the permanent director only since mid-February and was making his first official appearance on Capitol Hill when he became the third-consecutive Secret Service director to try to explain to lawmakers an embarrassing alcohol-related incident involving his agency.
Responding to angry members of a House Appropriations subcommittee, Clancy said he was frustrated that it took five days for him to learn about the March 4 incident, when two agents were accused of being drunk when they drove a government vehicle into a barrier at the White House complex.
“I think part of this ... goes to a culture of trust,” Clancy said. “Do you have the trust in your leadership that you can bring this to leadership’s attention? And I’ve got to work to earn that trust, and I’m going to do that through my actions.”
He said changing the agency’s culture will take time.
Lawmakers objected to his response, saying it should have already been clear to agency employees that such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.
“You can’t run an agency like this, for God’s sake,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, head of the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, echoed Rogers’ criticism.
“Before you even know the facts, you can say, based on the allegations, if, in fact, you are not aware that this kind of activity is inappropriate for a member of the Secret Service, you better get it now and go find another job,” Lowey said.
Clancy agreed with much of the criticism, but said he had to wait for a Homeland Security Department inspector general’s investigation to be completed before he could take action beyond reassigning the two agents to nonsupervisory desk jobs outside the White House.