Barely two weeks after new allegations about a 2012 prostitution scandal involving United States Secret Service members emerged, the elite security force is faced with fresh troubles. An investigation conducted by the Department of Homeland Security has found that a 2011 Secret Service mission, dubbed “Operation Moonlight,” potentially compromised the security of the president, according to a report by The Associated Press, or AP.
In May, an investigation conducted by The Washington Post had found that members of the Secret Service had been pulled from their posts near the White House and were ordered to protect a friend of the agency’s then-Director, Mark Sullivan. Between June and August 2011, the Post reported, two agents of the “Prowler” division, which is supposed to patrol the outskirts of the White House compound and respond to potential threats around the president’s official residence, were sent to monitor the home of Lisa Chopey -- who worked as an assistant to Sullivan.
Chopey was reportedly involved in a dispute with her neighbor, following which Keith Prewitt, then the deputy director of the Secret Service, directed the agency to assist her.
The report by the Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, accessed by AP, calls the conduct “problematic” and says that there was no legal authorization for using Secret Service agents “to protect an employee involved in an unrelated private dispute.”
In May, Secret Service spokesperson Ed Donovan, while confirming that agents had been sent to check on Chopey, denied that the operation had compromised the safety of the president.
“Because there were no protective assets used during these checks, there was no impact on protective operations,” he told the Post, adding that the Prowler unit was not a part of the president’s protective detail.
However, the report by the Homeland Security department, scheduled to be released on Wednesday, reportedly refutes these claims and says that assigning the agents to a rural area outside southern Maryland, about an hour’s drive from Washington, ensured that “the Prowler team would have been unable to respond to exigencies at the White House.”
The Post had earlier reported that on the first day of Operation Moonlight, two Prowler agents on duty near the White House were ordered to leave minutes before President Barack Obama departed on his helicopter, risking his safety at a time of heightened security concerns.