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Entries in Secret Service (25)

Saturday
May112013

West Wing Evacuated Due to Overheated Transformer

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The West Wing of the White House was evacuated early Saturday morning due to an overheated transformer.

“Early this morning, an electrical transformer near the West Wing malfunctioned and set off a smoke alarm in the West Wing. The transformer problem was quickly resolved,” a White House official told ABC News. “Electricity and personnel access to the West Wing has returned to normal. The First Family was unaffected.”

U.S. Secret Service told ABC News that at around 7 a.m., someone reported seeing smoke coming from what looked like a mechanical closet in the West Wing of the White House.

The D.C. Fire Department later clarified that it was an “odor that smelled like smoke” that was reported.

Out of an abundance of caution, the West Wing was evacuated and the D.C. Fire Department was called.

A D.C. Fire Department official said that the smell eventually dissipated, and there was no fire.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan102013

Lifetime Secret Service Protection Restored for Presidents Bush and Obama

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- As a cost savings, Congress had ended lifetime security details for former presidents, cutting off Secret Service protection 10 years after a president leaves office. But in the post-9/11 world Congress decided that former chief executives may still be vulnerable and need protection.

President Obama has now signed the repeal. HR. 6620, the “Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012,” also gives Secret Service protection to former first ladies and guarantees agents will continue to shadow children of former presidents until they become 16 years of age.

Of course, families can decline protection. When President George Herbert Walker Bush walked away from the inaugural ceremonies of his successor Bill Clinton, his wife Barbara Bush said farewell to her agents on the Capitol steps, and moved back to Texas without them.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep212012

White House Denies IG’s Suggestion Advance Team Volunteer Was Involved in Colombia Scandal

USSS(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Friday rejected an inspector general’s suggestion that a White House Advance Staff volunteer may have been involved in the U.S. Secret Service scandal involving Colombian prostitutes.

In a letter to Congress, Charles Edwards, the Acting Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, noted that while the scope of his “investigation was limited to the conduct of the DHS personnel in Cartagena, we did find a hotel registry that suggests that two non-USSS personnel may have had contact with foreign nationals.” Since the two instances were outside his area of inquiry, Edwards “did not conduct any additional investigation into this finding and has made no determination related to these individuals because they are not DHS personnel.”

One “of these employees is a Department of Defense employee affiliated with the White House Communication Agency,” Edwards said, “and the other, whose employment status was not verified, may have been affiliated with the White House advance operation.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz responded, saying, “As we’ve said for months, the White House review concluded that no members of the White House advance team, either staff or volunteers, engaged in inappropriate conduct during the President’s trip to Colombia.”

A senior administration official pointed out that the U.S. Secret Service noted that one of its agents had been falsely accused in the scandal because, according to a letter from Secret Service director Mark Sullivan to Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., in May, a Pentagon “employee admitted to writing a USSS room number on the registration card when he brought his female guest into the El Caribe Hotel.”

The Obama administration suggests that an internal White House investigation concluded that the same happened to this other individual -- a civilian volunteer with the White House Advance Team.

“Based on an inaccurate hotel records, at least two people were wrongly implicated in Colombia -- one of which was Secret Service personnel, as Director Sullivan has made clear, and the other was a White House volunteer for the advance team,” the senior administration official noted. “In the White House review, we found no other corroborating materials, and concluded that the hotel record was erroneous and that the volunteer did not engage in any inappropriate behavior.”

The White House would not name the individual in question.

The April scandal -- which came to light because one of the Secret Service agents refused to pay his bill -- resulted in eight agents losing their jobs and another losing his security clearance. More than 10 members of the U.S. military were punished for their participation in the scandal.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep042012

Paul Ryan's Secret Service Code Name Revealed

Win McNamee/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- The United States Secret Service code names chosen by the Ryans have been revealed.  Paul Ryan’s is “Bowhunter,” while Janna Ryan’s is “Buttercup,” according to a campaign aide.

Another staffer tells ABC News that one of Paul Ryan’s favorite movies is The Princess Bride and he calls his wife Buttercup, which is where they got the code name from. Buttercup is the name of the female lead in the cult classic.

Bowhunter is more obvious as Paul Ryan is a skilled archer. He bow hunts deer and other animals. He’s spoken of his joy of hunting on the campaign trail especially in his native Wisconsin and in Oklahoma, where his wife is from.

Each family’s secret service code name begins with the same letter. Sarah Palin was Denali while her husband Todd was Driller. President Obama is Renegade, while Michelle Obama is Renaissance. Vice President Joe Biden is Celtic, while wife Jill is Capri.

The top of the ticket, Mitt Romney is Javelin.

Code names are no longer as security sensitive since the Secret Service radio traffic is now scrambled.

Both the Ryans’ code names as well as Romney’s was first reported by GQ.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug262012

Ann Romney Gets Secret Service Protection

Scott Olson/Getty Images(BOSTON) – Ann Romney has been given her own Secret Service detail, ABC News has learned.

Ann Romney, the wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was first assigned a detail late Friday afternoon, a campaign aide confirmed.

She was first spotted by pool reporters riding in a two-car motorcade near her family’s lakeside home in Wolfeboro, N.H., on Sunday morning.

ABC News was the first to report that Romney was to receive Secret Service protection back in January.

The United States Secret Service did not immediately respond to requests for comments on Mrs. Romney’s new detail, but sources say it is typical for the wife of a presidential candidate to receive their own details around the time of the convention.

The Republican National Convention is set to begin on Tuesday, after being delayed by a day due to incoming Tropical Storm Isaac.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May012012

DHS Steps Up Secret Service Prostitution Scandal Oversight

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Homeland Security's independent watchdog agency has stepped up its oversight of the Secret Service's investigation into the Colombia prostitution scandal.

A DHS official emailed ABC News Monday on behalf of acting Inspector General Charles Edwards to say that late last week the agency "notified the USSS of our intent to conduct a comprehensive review of this matter." The email followed an ABC News report that revealed that the inspector general's office had taken a back seat in the probe—leaving the Secret Service's own internal affairs division in control of the investigation into the conduct of its agents during what has been described as an alcohol-fueled night of partying in Colombia.

Normally, allegations that Homeland Security employees engaged in serious misconduct are a matter for the Inspector General's office to look into. But the agency previously told ABC News that it would instead be monitoring the Secret Service review.

The approach appeared to be the result of a special carve-out for the Secret Service forged a decade ago—setting it apart from the standard described in a 2009 internal DHS memo, which specifically asserts that the Inspector General is "statutorily responsible for conducting and coordinating all investigations" of wrongdoing by other Homeland Security employees. Sen. Charles Grassley told ABC News he was not comfortable allowing the Secret Service's own agents to oversee the investigation, especially because it remains unclear whether the raucous behavior in Colombia was a one-time lapse or the sign of a broad systemic problem.

"An investigation by the agency's own Office of Professional Responsibility is necessary, but it doesn't provide transparent, independent oversight without an Inspector General's outside perspective," the Iowa Republican said Wednesday. "There's too much at stake to leave any doubts that an independent investigation wasn't conducted."

In an email to ABC News Monday, Edwards said the agency had enhanced its role in the review. In addition to monitoring the Secret Service effort, the Homeland Security investigators and inspectors would also begin their own independent look back at events.

"Last week, with the initial stages of the USSS [U.S. Secret Service] internal investigation nearing completion, we notified the USSS of our intent to conduct a comprehensive review of this matter," the email said. "As we notified the USSS last week, [the Office of Inspector General's] field work is beginning immediately."

The announcement of a comprehensive review comes after independent watchdog agency had been sending mixed signals about what its role would be in the probe. When Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified on Capitol Hill last week, she told Grassley there is a standing agreement—"a memorandum of understanding"—between the Secret Service and the Inspector General that governs how internal investigations are conducted. "In these types of cases, where there is alleged misconduct, [the Inspector General] actually supervises the investigation but they use the investigatory resources of the Secret Service. That's how we are managing this one." That is not, however, how the Inspector General's office described the arrangement in response to questions from ABC News last Wednesday, in an exchange that occurred after Napolitano gave her answer to the Senate. Spokeswoman Rachael Norris told ABC News that the Inspector General is "closely monitoring" the Secret Service's investigation and will review it when it has been completed.

"We're monitoring their internal investigation at this time," Norris said. "We are not conducting an additional investigation at this time."

The Inspector General's subordinate apparently dated to 2003, when the Secret Service was moved from the Department of Treasury into the newly created Homeland Security department. Both the Secret Service and the Coast Guard, which was moved from the Transportation Department to DHS the same year, retained their internal investigative powers. On Monday, however, the agency said the only reason it did not launch its own, independent probe was because the Secret Service already had investigators on the ground in Colombia.

"In our oversight capacity, and in recognition that there were already USSS Office of Professional Responsibility investigators on the ground in Colombia, we determined that the USSS was best positioned to immediately initiate the investigation with the full understanding that they would keep OIG informed as the investigation progressed," Edwards said. "We have maintained close contact with the USSS, coordinating with them as their internal investigation continued."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr262012

McCain Calls Secret Service Scandal Briefing ‘Waste of Time’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a private briefing on the status of the Pentagon investigation into the Secret Service prostitution scandal, the two top lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services committee expressed disappointment over the slow pace of the investigation and a lack of concrete information to emerge.

Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the committee, called Wednesday’s update on Capitol Hill, delivered by Vice Adm. William Gortney, the director of the Joint Staff, a “very disappointing briefing” and “a waste of time,” noting the dearth of concrete information about the scandal in which Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel allegedly brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms prior to President Obama’s arrival in Colombia for a summit with Latin American leaders.

McCain expressed frustration that despite the committee’s obligation to conduct oversight on national security issues, there were few answers.

“They wouldn’t even have information as to who was in charge on the ground in Cartagena.  It was remarkable,” McCain, R-Ariz., said.  “There are clearly implications to national security when prostitutes were in these individuals’ rooms.  [The military personnel] have the schedules of the president’s activity the following day.  We need that information.  That’s our duty to have that information and make decisions accordingly.  This briefing today gave us no details on any aspect of it.”

“Our obligation constitutionally,” McCain added, ”is oversight of the activities of the men and women in the military and our national security.  That’s the job of the Senate Armed Services committee.  Right now the Pentagon is being totally uncooperative in allowing us to fulfill those obligations.”

Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the committee, was more subdued, telling reporters that he thought the briefing was “sketchy” but he also explained that “it was a preliminary briefing because the [Pentagon's] investigation is not completed.”

“The military is traditionally reluctant to provide details of an investigation before it’s completed because of their fear of undo command influence and the fear of prejudicing proceedings that might be carried out under the uniform code of military justice,” Levin, D-Mich., said.  “I was surprised that it was not fuller, but they gave us the reasons for why they proceeded this way, and that’s where we’re at.”

The Pentagon did not comment after Wednesday’s briefing.

Since the scandal broke on April 13, the Secret Service has moved quickly to investigate its officers.  Already, 12 agents either have been cleared of serious misconduct, have resigned, retired, or been notified of personnel actions to permanently revoke their security clearances.  Some agents could face firing for cause.

Levin said he was told that the Pentagon’s investigation should be complete by the end of next week and that he and McCain are expecting a comprehensive update the following week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr242012

Obama Says ‘Knuckleheads’ Shouldn’t Diminish Secret Service

Kevin Winter/NBCUniversal/Getty Images(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- The actions of the “knuckleheads” accused of misconduct in the Secret Service scandal should not diminish the importance of the agency’s work, President Obama said Tuesday.

“The Secret Service, these guys are incredible,” the president told NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, according to press pool reports. “They protect me, they protect our girls. A couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do.”

“What they were thinking, I don’t know,” Obama said. “That’s why they’re not there anymore.”

A dozen Secret Service officials are being investigated for misconduct, including excessive drinking and cavorting with prostitutes, ahead of President Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this month. Six Secret Service personnel have since left the agency in the wake of the controversy.

The president’s interview, taped in Chapel Hill, N.C., will air in full Tuesday night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr222012

More Secret Service Firings Likely, Former Director Denies Cultural Issue

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A former director of the Secret Service says events of the caliber of the Colombian prostitution incident didn’t occur during his tenure at the agency.

“I don’t believe in the past these types of things have happened,” said W. Ralph Basham. “They certainly didn’t happen on my watch.”

Basham, who headed the service from 2003 to 2006, denied allegations of wider misconduct within the body charged with protecting the president and other governmental officials. On CBS’ “Face the Nation” this morning he said that while it was not unheard of for disciplinary action to be taken against agents, he could not remember ever removing one from duty.

“This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service,” he said.

Six agents have been fired or resigned since news broke that members of the agency and a military advance team had hired prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of a trip by President Obama to the country. Some lawmakers now question how such a blatant break of professional decorum could occur without the support of a larger culture.

Today the chairman of a House committee charged with investigating the incident confirmed that more firings were likely as the full scope of the event becomes clear. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he expected more firings in the “near future.”

“I would say anyone we have found to be guilty will [lose their job,]” he said. “What they were thinking is beyond me.”

King emphasized that the investigative focus should not be on the moral conduct of the accused, but rather the national security vulnerabilities presented by the incident.

While expressing his support for the current head of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, this morning the congressman sent a 50-question letter to the director requesting answers for specifics of the investigation.

Meanwhile on CNN Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., suggested the House Oversight committee would send a similar letter to the Pentagon this week regarding the military’s involvement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr202012

Palin Rips Former Secret Service Member Who 'Checked Her Out'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sarah Palin responded angrily to reports that one of the Secret Service members allegedly involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal was "checking her out" while assigned to protect Palin during the 2008 national election when she was GOP presidential nominee John McCain's running mate.

David Randall Chaney, who left the agency this week amid the burgeoning controversy, wrote on his Facebook page, "I was really checking her out, if you know what i mean?," a reference to his apparent attraction to Palin.

Appearing on Fox News' On the Record hosted by Greta van Susteren, Palin said, "Well, this agent who was kind of ridiculous there in posting pictures and comments about checking someone out.  Well check this out, bodyguard -- you're fired.  And I hope his wife sends him to the doghouse.  As long as he's not eating the dog, along with his former boss."

Palin was also getting a dig in against President Obama, who wrote in his autobiography about being fed dog meat during his boyhood living in Indonesia.

In fact, Palin didn't stop criticizing Obama, saying, "The president, the CEO of this operation called our federal government, has got to start cracking down on these agencies.  He is the head of the administrative branch and all of these different departments in the administration that now people are seeing things that are so amiss within these departments.  The buck stops with the president."

She also gave the president a bit of advice, telling Susteren that Obama "better be wary there when Secret Service is accompanying his family on vacation.  They may be checking out the first lady, instead of guarding her.  I say that not just tongue in cheek, but I say that seriously."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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