U.S. News

Obama disappointed by latest Secret Service scandal: White House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior U.S. Secret Service agents returning from a party drove a government car through police tape and barricades into an area where their colleagues were investigating a suspicious package, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to Georgia Tech in Atlanta March 10, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The White House and the Secret Service have not commented directly on the incident, which is under investigation by an internal watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security.

It comes on the heels of a series of scandals for the agency that protects the president and his family.

President Barack Obama was “disappointed to hear the allegations” earlier this week, White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters.

The Washington Post said the agents - one a top member of Obama’s protective detail and the other a senior supervisor in the Washington field office - drove to the White House just before 11 p.m. on March 4 after a party at a bar.

They drove through an area marked off with police tape where their colleagues were investigating a package thrown out of a car by a woman who had shouted, “It’s a bomb,” the newspaper said, citing a police report.

The officers drove very close to the item, which later was found to be a book wrapped in a green shirt, and may have even driven over it, according to the newspaper, citing interviews with investigators who reviewed surveillance video.

Secret Service officers on duty suspected the agents were drunk, but a supervisor let the agents go home, the Post reported.

Secret Service Director Joe Clancy - chosen by Obama to lead the agency last month after a lengthy external review - asked the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to investigate.

Obama has full confidence in Clancy, said Schultz, the White House spokesman.

“Nobody has higher standards for the Secret Service than Director Clancy,” Schultz said.

A Secret Service official said the two employees have been “reassigned to non-supervisory, non-operational assignments.” A spokeswoman declined to provide the agents’ names.

The agency was criticized as being too insular by an independent panel appointed in the wake of an intrusion last year, when a man with a knife scaled the White House fence and ran inside the mansion.

That incident prompted former Director Julia Pierson to resign. She had been director for two years, named to the top job after agents were accused of hiring prostitutes during a 2012 trip to Colombia.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Richard Cowan, Jeff Mason, Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tom Brown