Washington, DC– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s elite force of special agents is used to run personal errands for Administrator Christie Todd Whitman on her personal security detail, according to a survey of agents and interviews conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Scores of agents, whose principal duty is supposed to be investigation of environmental crimes, report having to walk her dogs, fetch dry cleaning and perform other personal duties for Ms. Whitman.
Ms. Whitman (who insists that subordinates use her former title of “Governor”) has created a 24-hour, seven day a week “Protective Security Detail” that often requires a contingent of as many as ten special agents– plus permanently attached supervisory positions–to accompany her even on vacations and to private events such as fundraisers.
Regardless of the need for a phalanx of bodyguards, agents doubt the protective detail’s effectiveness. As one agent noted, “Based on experience, this program is wholly ineffective in preventing any potential attack.” By contrast, Ms. Whitman’s predecessor, Carol Browner, used a one-agent escort from the Inspector General’s office to accompany her while on official trips.
EPA special agents who have served on the Whitman Protective Security Detail report
Routine use of agents to perform personal errands, such as reserving tables at restaurants and locating coffee shops;
Multiple agents used to cover Ms. Whitman while she is golfing, boating or entertaining at her vacation home in Florida; and
Extravagances, such as the frequent rental of gas-guzzling Lincoln Town Cars when visiting other cities, rather than using available government vehicles.
“With all due respect, protecting Governor Whitman does not protect our environment,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who noted that the influx of former Secret Service into the top echelon of the Criminal Investigation Division is diverting agents to a variety of new security-oriented assignments and away from enforcement. “Privately, agents deride the Whitman protective detail as ‘Guarding Miss Daisy’ and complain that they are being kept from their real jobs of fighting pollution and investigating corporate environmental crimes.”
Special agents within EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division have an average salary exceeding $75,000 with only approximately 120 out of a total force of 225 conducting field investigations. Yet Ms. Whitman’s protective detail is composed of these field agents who, in many cases, must interrupt active cases to travel with her. A series of long-pending PEER requests for agency security costs is still undergoing “personal review” by J.P. Suarez, the Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance before the data will be released.