The government watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that two Secret Service agents probably had too much to drink the evening of March 4, when they disrupted an active bomb threat investigation at the White House.
The DHS Office of Inspector General released a report Thursday on the incident that is one of several that have shaken Congress' confidence in the Secret Service. Among the others are a shooting incident at the White House in 2011, the 2014 White House fence-jumping episode, and new allegations from this year that a senior Secret Service officer sexually assaulted a colleague.
A report from the Department of Homeland Security watchdog says two Secret Service agents were most likely impaired by alcohol the evening of March 4, when they interrupted an active bomb threat at the White House. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
On March 4, Marc Connolly, deputy special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division, and his assistant George Ogilvie stayed at a bar after a retirement party, and eventually ended up near the White House just as agents were investigating a possible bomb threat. The OIG report on the incident said both agents were probably under the influence of alcohol when they drove through a checkpoint and knocked into a barricade that had been placed as part of the investigation.
"We conclude that it was more likely than not that both Connolly's and Ogilvie's judgment was impaired by alcohol," the report said. "While during their interviews each denied drinking to excess that evening, we must assess those denials in light of the UD officers' observations of the agents' behavior..."
Both Connolly and Ogilvie downplayed the drinking they did that night, but the report indicated that they might have consumed a substantial amount of alcohol. For example, it noted that over a three-hour period, Ogilvie paid for eight glasses of scotch, two vodkas, one glass of wine and three beers. Each said they just had two or three drinks, but it's not clear where all the booze went.
"Ogilvie in his interview maintained that the balance of the drinks on his tab – five glasses of scotch, a glass of wine and three beers – were given away to others, but he could not recall for whom he bought drinks," the report said.
When the two left the bar and headed toward the White House, they ultimately drove past a guard station and hit a barricade. After finally being met by other officers, these officers said Connolly and Ogilvie seemed completely unaware of what was going on around them.
"The near officer asked Ogilvie 'how did you get in here?' " the report said. "He received no response. He asked a second and a third time, and again received no response."
"The officer told the OIG investigators that Ogilvie had his head back in the seat and his eyes were wide open as if he was trying hard not to blink, and in notes written that evening described both agents as have a 'deer in the headlights' look," it said. It added that officers called superiors to say that both Connolly and Ogilvie were "not making sense."
"Connolly and Ogilvie displayed poor judgment and a lack of situational awareness in driving into the scene," it concluded. "Even if they had not been aware of the condition yellow through email notifications, it would have been obvious to a reasonable observer as they drove down 15th Street and into the E Street vehicle entrance that something was amiss."
While members of Congress criticized the Secret Service for the incident, Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy told a Senate committee in March that "there was no crash," and said he would withhold further judgment until the OIG report was released.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) responded to the OIG report by saying there needs to be consequences for the actions taken by Connolly and Ogilvie that night.
"Secret Service leadership must send the strong message to agency employees that there will be consequences for such bad behavior and lack of common sense," he said. "Additionally, they also need to make clear that employees are required to report misconduct to the appropriate authorities at the agency."
DHS Inspector General John Roth was expected to testify Thursday afternoon about the incident and his report at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.