The Secret Service announced three personnel moves yesterday in relation to the Colombian prostitution scandal rocking the agency: one supervisor retired, one agent resigned and third supervisor is being forced out.
So what’s in store for the other eight agents caught up in the agency’s investigation who remain on administrative leave?
Their actions are being reviewed by the Secret Service’s internal Office of Professional Responsibility and the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) of the House Oversight Committee, meanwhile, have asked for summaries of any disciplinary actions taken against the 11 agents involved in the incident over the past decade.
Secret Service agents are afforded the protections of federal employees. But there’s one thing that makes it a bit easier for for the agency to get rid of the agents: the power it has over the security clearance they’re required to have in order to work for the agency.
“It will be difficult for the agents in question to retain their jobs because the agency will remove their security clearance,” an attorney who has handled federal employment cases involving Secret Service agents told TPM. “That removal cannot be challenged directly in court.”
Neither the Merit Systems Protection Board nor a court has the power to look behind the executive branch’s decision to revoke an agent’s security clearance, the lawyer said. Employees can also be suspended without pay when in the interest of national security but couldn’t be immediately terminated.
Secret Service Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey noted in his announcement yesterday that the supervisor who had been “proposed for removal for cause” — or fired, in layman’s terms — was required to be given 30-day notice as well as a chance to respond and the right to be represented by private legal counsel. The supervisor that the Secret Service wanted to fire has reportedly already threatened to sue.
The federal employment lawyer said that many former agents end up working for private security firms as long as the issue isn’t too radioactive.
Secret Service officials say that a “full, thorough and fair investigation” continues, “utilizing all investigative techniques available,” including polygraphs.