Secret Service agents were taken off duty patrolling the White House parameter in order to monitor a dispute between an aide to the director and her next door neighbor, The Washington Post reported.
Then-director Mark Sullivan was worried that his subordinate, Lisa Chopey, was being harassed by Michael Mulligan, the boyfriend of her neighbor Brenda Allen. The two families shared a gravel road to their homes in suburban La Plata, Maryland and were involved in a dispute.
Mulligan later pled guilty to misdemeanor assault, acknowledging evidence against him could result in a conviction, while insisting on his innocence, the Post reported.
Allen, herself a former FBI employee, said she and her family were afraid to spend time outdoors. "There was all these cars down there for months. They parked everywhere. It actually scared us. I wasn't sure if it was police or what."
The neighbor surveillance operation, dubbed Operation Moonlight, began at the end of June 2011 and lasted into August. The irregular assignment was reported to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general by some of those involved.
The diverted personnel were part of the service's Prowler unit. In one instance, agents were instructed to leave their positions only minutes before President Barack Obama's helicopter was set to take off from the South Lawn, according to the Post.
The orders for the operation came from David Beach and Jim Donaldson of the Washington field office. A Secret Service spokesman said that Moonlight lasted for just days and was a routine response to a report of a possible risk to an employee.
Sullivan, now retired, said he learned of the checks after they were in progress and that they were "appropriate." Current Director Julia Pierson, Sullivan's former chief of staff, was not told about the operation.
Chopey now works for the DHS secretary.
Dan Emmett, a former Secret Service agent said, "Prowler is there for a reason, and it shouldn't be pulled when the president is on the move. There is nothing more important than the president's arrival and departure. The president takes far greater priority than the director's secretary's well-being."
In November 2011, after Operation Moonlight had ended, a man fired a semiautomatic rifle at the White House striking a window of the family residence. Last week, a motorist managed to enter the grounds with a motorcade carrying the president's daughters. Prowler agents determined the driver had made an innocent mistake.
Allen and Mulligan only learned of the Secret Service's involvement in their lives when informed by The Washington Post.
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