Three Secret Service agents became the first to fall in the Colombian prostitution scandal today, with the agency announcing that two supervisors and one agent will step down.
Eight more remain under investigation and on suspension as one of the supervisors retired, the other was “proposed for removal for cause” (which can be challenged), and the agent resigned.
“The Secret Service continues to conduct a full, thorough and fair investigation, utilizing all investigative techniques available to our agency,” the assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service Office of Government and Public Affairs, Paul Morrissey, said in a statement. “This includes polygraph examinations, interviews with the employees involved, and witness interviews, to include interviews being conducted by our Office of Professional Responsibility in Cartagena, Colombia.”
Over on the Hill, the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote the Secret Service director, Mark J. Sullivan, a letter that accused the agents of bringing the prostitutes into contact with “sensitive security information.”
The letter was first released to ABC News’ Jake Tapper, then Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.) tweeted a copy.
Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) noted that Sullivan briefed members early this week on “steps the agency has taken to investigate this matter and your plans for preventing a recurrence.”
“The facts as you described them raised questions about the agency’s culture,” the congressmen wrote. “The incident in Cartagena is troubling because Secret Service agents and officers made a range of bad decisions, from drinking too much, to engaging with prostitutes, to bringing foreign nationals into contact with sensitive security information, to exposing themselves to blackmail and other forms of potential compromise.”
The committee leaders then asked Sullivan for 10 things to aid the Oversight investigation, including a detailed description of events and timeline, an accounting of all U.S. government personnel who knew about the incident, and the agency’s investigative findings including information received from Colombian authorities.
Issa and Cummings also want the disciplinary histories of the agents involved dating back 10 years, and summaries of any other disciplinary actions that were taken against any other personnel as a result of misconduct on overseas trips since 2007.
“Has the USSS been able to determine that all women involved in this incident were at least 18 years of age?” the letter asks, noting that the involvement of underage prostitutes violates the law under which a U.S. citizen traveling to a foreign locale cannot engage in “illicit sexual conduct.”
“Your swift and decisive action in response to this scandal has given us confidence that the agency will complete a thorough investigation and take steps to ensure that similar lapses in judgment will never again jeopardize the important work of the U.S. Secret Service.”
Issa and Cummings told Sullivan that “your task is to restore the world’s confidence in the U.S. Secret Service.”
The New York Times got the first interview with the prostitute whose argument over payment led to the discovery of the activities of the Secret Service agents and a handful of military personnel under investigation by the Department of Defense.
She claimed she was a high-priced escort and charged the agent $800 when he offered only $30. She also noted that not only did she spend the entire night in the agent’s room, only to be woken by a call from the front desk, but when she wanted help getting her money she fetched another prostitute who had stayed the whole night with an agent across the hall.
The woman told the Times that she was not interested in cooperating with American investigators and is planning to leave Cartagena soon.
Talking with reporters en route to a President Obama speech in Ohio today, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the scandal wasn’t detracting from Obama’s economic message and quest to cast government as a force for good.
“The president has been crystal clear since he was a candidate about the standards that he insists be met by those who work for the federal government and on behalf of the American people and for the American people,” Carney said.
“You have heard the president speak recently on the matter involving the Secret Service. I don’t have anything to add to that.”