Over at least two months in the fall of 2011, Secret Service agents responsible for guarding the perimeter of the White House were redirected by top officials to monitor the director’s assistant, who was engaged in a dispute with her neighbor.
The Washington Post reports that the mission, known as Operation: Moonlight within the Secret Service, saw teams of two agents reassigned to watch the home in Southern Maryland, near the town of La Plata. At least two of the agents were concerned enough about their liability in the situation, which they feared was a misuse of government resources, to keep a strict log of their activities. Several agents reported the operation to the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service.
Although there was reportedly concern within the service’s Washington field office that the reassignment could leave both the President and the compound vulnerable, an agency spokeswoman made it clear that the agents in question were not directly part of the President’s protective detail. As members of a service unit code-named Prowler, they are responsible for patrolling the outer edge of the compound, as well as monitoring the south lawn when the President arrives or departs from the White House.
Lisa Chopey, the assistant whose home was monitored, reported that her neighbor, Michael Mulligan, used an ATV to chase her SUV on the morning of June 30, 2011. Chopey sought and received a restraining order against Mulligan, who plead guilty to charges of misdemeanor assault in connection with the reported harassment.
Former Secret Service director Mark Sullivan, who was in charge of the agency when the alleged redirection took place, released a statement to the post in which he explained that a supervisor authorized the operation without his knowledge. Sullivan, who resigned from the service in 2013, also called the reassignments “appropriate” in the face of threats to an employee:
“The U.S. Secret Service always has taken seriously threats made against employees and responds as appropriate. In this case, the employee followed protocol in reporting concerns about her safety to a supervisor who took action consistent with the seriousness of the situation. I was informed later of those actions.”
Although Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service, confirmed the operation took place, he disputed reports that it lasted for months. According to Donovan, the reassignments happened for “only a few days over the Fourth of July weekend.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney stated that the White House was unaware of the allegations, referring all questions to the Secret Service.