The Secret Service — the agency charged with protecting America’s most vital leaders, including the President — is facing renewed scrutiny amid the controversy surrounding an agent inserting a thumb drive with apparent Chinese malware into a computer and the separate ouster of the outfit’s director.
The malware incident, which occurred when an unidentified agent allegedly inserted a malicious thumb drive, found in the possession of a Chinese woman arrested at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club last month, into an agency computer — that then began installing unwanted files.
SECRET SERVICE UNDER FIRE AFTER AGENT TESTIFIES AGENCY INSERTED MALICIOUS THUMB DRIVE INTO COMPUTER
The incident was confirmed by Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich’s testimony in the case of Yujing Zhang, 32, who was charged with unlawfully entering a restricted area and making false statements to federal law enforcement officers. Prosecutors said she isn’t accused of spying at this time, but noted there are “a lot of questions that remain to be answered.”
“Assertions that U.S. Secret Service agents are incompetent to carry out forensic examinations on digital media (ie thumbdrives, laptops, cellphones, etc.) is outlandish and not rooted in fact.”
Amid the criticism, the Secret Service issued a statement denying the incident and contradicting its own agent’s testimony.
“Assertions that U.S. Secret Service agents are incompetent to carry out forensic examinations on digital media (ie thumbdrives, laptops, cellphones, etc.) is outlandish and not rooted in fact,” a Secret Service spokesperson said in a statement.
Beyond that, Director Randolph “Tex” Alles was ousted from his position by Trump this week as part of a larger shakeup of the Department of Homeland Security, the government arm to which the Secret Service reports.
But this isn’t the first time the Secret Service has come under fire for reportedly embarrassing — or potentially harmful — blunders.
Since Trump’s election, there have been dozens of attempts by protesters or members of the so-called “resistance” to enter the White House and hurt the president. Some of the perpetrators have penetrated security rings and come dangerously close to White House officials.
Back in February, a man managed to breach a security perimeter after claiming he had an appointment with Trump to discuss the border wall, Green New Deal and his hope to “bring peace to the world.”
MAN CLAIMING APPOINTMENT WITH TRUMP STRIKES SECRET SERVICE OFFICER OUTSIDE WHITE HOUSE, AUTHORITIES SAY
Christopher Henry Alexander Davis, 29, of Herndon, Va., reportedly engaged in a physical struggle with Secret Service officers after they tried to handcuff him. At one point, he “struck [the officer] with his right forearm to the left side of the [officer’s] face and nose,” according to court records.
In March 2017, Jonathan Tuan Tran, 26, jumped over a White House fence while allegedly carrying two cans of mace — including one inside his jacket pocket.
The man got so deep into the compound he was seen hiding behind one of the mansion’s column before being apprehended. He was able to freely roam around the compound for about 16 minutes before the Secret Service detained him.
SUSPECTED WHITE HOUSE FENCE JUMPER CHARGED WITH CARRYING ‘DANGEROUS WEAPON,’ SEEN BEHIND MANSION COLUMN
Trump was inside the building at the time of the breach. The Secret Service insisted the man had no hazardous materials, despite court records contradicting that statement.
Agent against Trump
The recent controversies involving the agency also include an anti-Trump agent who said she would rather go to jail than take a bullet for Trump.
Kerry O’Grady, the special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s Denver district, was placed on paid leave about two years ago amid an investigation that unearthed her troubling comments on Social media.
O’Grady reportedly posted on Facebook in October, writing: “As a public servant for nearly 23 years, I struggle not to violate the Hatch Act.”
She added: “So I keep quiet and skirt the median. To do otherwise can be a criminal offense for those in my position. Despite the fact that I am expected to take a bullet for both sides. But this world has changed and I have changed. And I would take jail time over a bullet or an endorsement for what I believe to be disaster to this country and the strong and amazing women and minorities who reside here. Hatch Act be damned. I am with Her.”
SECRET SERVICE AGENT WHO SUGGESTED SHE WON’T TAKE BULLET FOR TRUMP ON PAID LEAVE, REPORT SAYS
She later retracted her comments and told the Washington Examiner she would indeed protect the president.
“It was an internal struggle for me but as soon as I put it up, I thought it was not the sentiment that I needed to share because I care very deeply about the mission,” she said.
She continued to be on a Secret Service payroll; though, she appears to no longer hold the top role within her department. She also reportedly helped to organize an anti-Trump Women’s March in Denver back in January.
Secret Service ‘covers up’ Russian spy hire
The Secret Service was also criticized after the agency hired a suspected Russian spy who went on to work at the U.S. embassy in Moscow for a decade before being dismissed in 2017 amid scrutiny from counter-intelligence officers
The Russian national, a woman, was hired by the Secret Service and came under suspicion in 2016 during a routine security sweep carried out by the State Department, according to sources quoted by the Guardian.
“The Secret Service is trying to hide the breach by firing [her]. The damage was already done but the senior management of the Secret Service did not conduct any internal investigation to assess the damage and to see if [she] recruited any other employees to provide her with more information.”
SUSPECTED RUSSIAN SPY WORKED IN US EMBASSY IN MOSCOW FOR A DECADE, REPORTS SAY
The woman was dismissed in 2017 after an investigation found she was regularly having unauthorized meetings with the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency.
“The Secret Service is trying to hide the breach by firing [her],” a source told the newspaper. “The damage was already done but the senior management of the Secret Service did not conduct any internal investigation to assess the damage and to see if [she] recruited any other employees to provide her with more information.”
An off-duty Secret Service agent who had been assigned to Vice President Mike Pence’s security detail was arrested in 2017 in Maryland for allegedly soliciting a prostitute
Quincy Thomas Torregano, the agent, notified the Secret Service of his own arrest by local police and was suspended at the time for an internal investigation.
SECRET SERVICE AGENT ARRESTED, SUSPENDED AFTER ALLEGED HOTEL MEETING WITH PROSTITUTE
“The Secret Service is aware of an alleged incident involving an off-duty Secret Service employee,” The spokesman said, adding that the agency takes “allegations of criminal activity very seriously.”
The statement continued: “The employee’s security clearance and access to all Secret Service facilities has also been suspended. We are exploring the full range of disciplinary actions.”
The outcome of the investigation remains unclear.
SECRET SERVICE LAPTOP STOLEN IN NEW YORK
Another agent, meanwhile, managed to lose a Secret Service laptop that contained “highly sensitive information such as floor plans and evacuation protocol for Trump Tower, compromising security.
The computer was stolen the agent’s vehicle parked in front of a New York residence.
“The U.S. Secret Service can confirm that an employee was the victim of a criminal act in which our Agency issued laptop computer was stolen,” the agency said in a statement in 2017. “An investigation is ongoing and the Secret Service is withholding additional comment until the facts are gathered.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.