Most of the controversy over government surveillance programs in the last few years has focused on fears of what the NSA or FBI might do with the personal data they’ve collected on Americans guilty of no crime. But what if you’ve applied for a federal job? Surely that information would not be misused or improperly accessed, particularly since it is protected by the Privacy Act?
That’s probably what now-Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) thought when he applied for a job with the Secret Service in 2003. But as the chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Chaffetz earned the hatred of many in the Secret Service for his investigations into the agency’s many recent blunders and scandals. Thanks to a Department of Homeland Security Inspector General investigation into the leak of Chaffetz’ 2003 Secret Service application, we now have an idea of how extensive the leak of his personal information was throughout the agency. As the IG noted:
We were unable to determine with certainty how many of those individuals in turn disclosed this information to others who did not have a need to know, whomay have then told others. However, the disclosure was widespread, and recipients of the information likely numbered in the hundreds. Those agentswe interviewed acknowledged freely sharing it with others in the Secret Service, often contemporaneously with accessing the information. One agent reportedthat by the end of the second day, he was sent on a protection assignment in New York City for the visit of the President of Afghanistan, and many of theapproximately 70 agents at the protection briefing were talking about the issue.
With one exception, the IG also found that senior civil servants in the Secret Service did nothing to stop the propogation of Chaffetz’ personal data: