Three Secret Service agents out amid prostitution scandal
Posted April 18, 2012
WASHINGTON — Three members of the Secret Service's most elite teams are off the job in the wake of a prostitution scandal in Colombia, multiple media outlets reported Wednesday evening.
Last Thursday, 11 Secret Service agents were recalled to the U.S. from Colombia and placed on administrative leave after a night of partying that allegedly ended with at least some bringing at least 20 women back to their hotel before President Barack Obama arrived in Colombia for a summit with Latin American leaders.
On Monday, the agency announced that it also had revoked the agents' security clearance.
CBS News and The Associated Press reported that one agent has been fired, another has retired, and the third resigned. Eight others remain under investigation.
At least 10 U.S. military personnel staying at the same hotel are also being investigated for their role in the alleged misconduct.
The Secret Service has dispatched more investigators to Colombia to interview the women involved.
Secret Service director Mark Sullivan has said the agents and military personnel were telling different stories about who the women were, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
King is among the lawmakers being briefed by Sullivan on the ongoing investigation.
"Some are admitting (the women) were prostitutes, others are saying they're not, they're just women they met at the hotel bar," King said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
Sullivan said none of the women, who had to surrender their IDs at the hotel, were minors. "But prostitutes or not, to be bringing a foreign national back into a secure zone is a problem."
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said Tuesday that "20 or 21 women foreign nationals" were brought to the hotel. Eleven of the Americans involved were Secret Service, she said, and "allegedly Marines were involved with the rest."
King said it appeared the agency actually had "really lucked out." If the women were working for a terrorist organization or some other anti-American group, King said, they could have had access to information about the president's whereabouts or security protocols while in the agents' rooms.
"This could have been disastrous," King said.
Obama has called for a rigorous investigation, and said he would be angry if the allegations proved to be true.
Two U.S. military officials say that five Army Green Berets are among the 10 U.S. military personnel who are under investigation.
One of the officials said the group also includes two Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal technicians, two Marine dog handlers and an Air Force airman. The Special Forces Green Berets were working with Colombia's counterterrorist teams, the official said.
The agents and servicemen were in Colombia setting up security ahead of Obama's three-day trip to the port city of Cartagena for a summit attended by about 30 other world leaders.
People briefed on the incident said the agents brought women back to Cartagena's Hotel Caribe, where other members of the U.S. delegation and the White House corps also were staying.
The Secret Service has insisted Obama's security was not undermined by the incident, which happened before he arrived in Colombia.
In at least one of his briefings with lawmakers, Sullivan said he was calling on an inspector general to hold an independent review.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, welcomed that news, saying an independent review "should help the agency regain some respect from the American taxpayers and from people around the world."
The Secret Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Grassley's account.