Secret Service Director Grilled About Agency Scandals In House Hearing

Mar 17, 2015
Originally published on March 17, 2015 7:18 pm

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Tuesday that it took five days before he was informed that a car carrying two agents struck a security barrier outside the White House.

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Transcript

DON GONYEA, HOST:

The new director of the United States Secret Service was supposed to be testifying about his agency's budget request today. Instead, he was grilled about the Secret Service's latest embarrassment. Joseph Clancy said it took five days before he found out a car with two Secret Service agents hit a security barrier outside the White House. This happened earlier this month after the agents had gone to a retirement party. NPR's Brian Naylor has more.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Clancy, who was named in February as director of the agency, told a House panel the March 4 incident was his first test. If so, he seems in danger of failing based on lawmakers' responses to his actions. They wanted to know why he wasn't immediately told what happened that night and why he didn't immediately fire the agents involved. Clancy said he did not find out until he saw an anonymous email. He said he had a stern meeting with staff members over the delay and pleaded with lawmakers for patience.

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JOSEPH CLANCY: It's going to take time to change maybe some of this culture. There's no excuse for this information not to come up the chain. That's going to take time because I'm going to have to build trust with our workforce.

NAYLOR: Members of the House Appropriations Committee from both parties pounced on that explanation. Here's New York Democrat Nita Lowey.

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CONGRESSMAN NITA LOWEY: What really shocks me - it will take time to change the culture. I don't understand this one bit. It seems to me it should take time to help people who think this is the culture to go get another job.

NAYLOR: Utah Republican Chris Stewart said Clancy, himself a former agent, needs to assert himself as boss.

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CONGRESSMAN CHRIS STEWART: I understand what you're trying to do. I really do. But when you say, I have to set an example, I have to earn their trust. Dude, you don't have to earn their trust. You're their boss. They're supposed to earn your trust.

NAYLOR: Clancy said on hearing of the incident, he turned it over to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security to investigate. That didn't sit well with Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican.

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CONGRESSMAN HAL ROGERS: To say you're not investigating because you want the inspector general of the Department to investigate is hogwash.

NAYLOR: Clancy did shed some new light on what happened that Wednesday night. He said based on a video he saw, the government car, driven by one of the agents, was moving slowly when it came up to an orange construction barrel near the White House.

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CLANCY: So they nudged this barrel out of the way. The barrel did not fall over. They nudged it over. They moved up to the checkpoint.

NAYLOR: Left unanswered is whether the agents, including a member of President Obama's security detail, had been drinking. Clancy appeared before the panel to testify about the administration's $1.9 billion budget request for the agency. Rogers says Congress will give the Service what it needs but that it will be on a short string. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.