WASHINGTON — Scores of U.S. Secret Service employees improperly accessed the decade-old, unsuccessful job application of a congressman who was investigating scandals inside the agency, a new government report said Wednesday. An assistant director suggested leaking embarrassing information to retaliate against Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House oversight committee.

The actions by the employees could represent criminal violations under the U.S. Privacy Act, said the report by the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, John Roth. “It doesn’t take a lawyer explaining the nuances of the Privacy Act to know that the conduct that occurred here – by dozens of agents in every part of the agency – was wrong,” the report said.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson personally apologized to Chaffetz again Wednesday, the congressman told The Associated Press in an interview on Capitol Hill. Johnson did not disclose whether any employees had been punished. “It’s intimidating,” Chaffetz said. “It’s what it was supposed to be.”

Johnson said in a statement Wednesday that “those responsible should be held accountable” but did not provide further details.

“I am confident that U.S. Secret Service Director Joe Clancy will take appropriate action to hold accountable those who violated any laws or the policies of this department,” Johnson said. “Activities like those described in the report must not, and will not, be tolerated.”

Clancy also apologized Wednesday for “this wholly avoidable and embarrassing misconduct” and pledged to hold those responsible for the data breach accountable.

“I will continue to review policies and practices to address employee misconduct and demand the highest level of integrity of all our employees,” Clancy said in a statement.

Employees accessed Chaffetz’s 2003 application for a Secret Service job starting 18 minutes after the start of a congressional hearing in March about the latest scandal involving drunken behavior by senior agents. Some forwarded the information to others. At least 45 employees viewed the file.

Chaffetz applied to join the Secret Service through a field office and was rejected and labeled “Better Qualified Candidate” for unknown reasons. Chaffetz said he never interviewed with the agency and does not know why his application was declined.

One week later, Assistant Director Ed Lowery suggested leaking embarrassing information about Chaffetz in retaliation for aggressive investigations by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into a series of agency missteps and scandals, the report said. Days later, on April 2, the information about Chaffetz unsuccessfully applying for a job at the Secret Service was published by The Daily Beast, an Internet publication.

Lowery declined to comment though a Secret Service spokesman.