Two senior Secret Service supervisors were probably drunk when they drove through emergency barriers onto the White House grounds on the night of March 4, shoving a protective barrel aside and passing inches from a package that officers feared might contain a bomb.
That’s the conclusion of a scathing 55-page report issued Thursday by John Roth, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.
The misconduct by two veteran agents is the latest embarrassing episode for the troubled presidential protective service, and it led to a further shakeup of top ranks.
One of the supervisors involved, Marc Connolly, who was responsible for White House security, has indicated he will retire, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the matter in public. Disciplinary action is reportedly being considered against the other supervisor, George Ogilvie, who is an assistant to the head of the Washington field office.
Roth’s report says Connolly and Ogilvie spent five hours at a retirement party in an Irish bar six blocks from the White House. Just before 11 p.m., they drove through a police roadblock and onto White House grounds at the E Street entrance, unaware that a woman had fled moments earlier after throwing a package that she said was a bomb.
Rather than stopping at an orange barrel placed to block the entrance to secure the crime scene, they pushed it more than 5 feet with the car’s bumper, the report says.
“This was no mere ‘bump,’ but rather extended contact to shove the barrel out of the way,” the report says. Apparently unknown to the pair, it adds, their car “passed within inches of the suspicious package.”
Although the two men denied they had been drinking to excess, uniformed officers at the scene said that “they were not making sense” and one reported that they appeared “hammered.” Ogilvie’s post-party bar tab listed nine drinks he could not account for, the report says.
“We conclude that it was more likely than not that both Connolly’s and Ogilvie’s judgment was impaired by alcohol,” the report says.
No sobriety tests were administered, and the two drove to their homes in government-issued cars.
Neither officials on the scene nor the two supervisors notified top Secret Service administrators of the incident. Nor was it reported in log books about the investigation of the package, which turned out to be harmless.
The Secret Service director, Joseph Clancy, who had taken over the agency after several earlier scandals, learned about the incident from a retired friend five days later.
The inspector general’s report debunks rumors that video of the episode was intentionally deleted or destroyed. Clips of the woman tossing the package and the two agents disrupting the investigation were successfully extracted from the video system, the report says.
White House surveillance video normally is retained for 72 hours before it is reused, the report says.
The report faults Connolly and Ogilvie for not reporting the incident to their superiors. That failure, it concludes, “reflects either poor judgment or an affirmative desire to hide their activities.”
The report also says “vague” Secret Service policies on driving after drinking did not conform to Homeland Security policies. After the incident, the Secret Service tightened its rules to prohibit use of any government-owned vehicle within 10 hours of alcohol consumption.
The Secret Service came under scrutiny last year for failing to notice that someone had fired shots at the White House in 2011, for allowing an armed private security guard to enter an elevator with President Obama, and for reacting slowly when a man with a knife jumped a perimeter fence and managed to run deep into the White House before he was tackled.