Collins Says 21 Women Involved in Secret Agent Sex Scandal

Senator Susan Collins

JON E. DOUGHERTY, NEWSROOM AMERICA

A Republican senator said Tuesday that as many as 21 women were involved in an alleged prostitution scandal involving Secret Service and U.S. military personnel in Colombia.

Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said she learned after an hour-long brief Monday evening by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan that U.S. Marines were involved in the scandal along with 11 Secret Service agents.

“There are 11 agents involved. Twenty or 21 women foreign nationals were brought to the hotel, but allegedly Marines were involved with the rest,” said Collins, in a statement.

She said Sullivan was “rightly appalled by the agents’ actions and is pursuing a vigorous internal investigation,” adding she was concerned whether the incident indicates “a problem with the culture of the Secret Service,” and whether their behavior left them open to security issues.

“Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons, or in any others jeopardized security of the president or our country?” Collins said.

Earlier story below

(Newsroom America) — Secret Service officials have revoked security clearances for the 11 agents allegedly involved in a prostitution scandal in Colombia, as the Defense Department examines whether it will expand its own investigation into an incident the top military officer in the country called an embarrassment.

Fox News reported Tuesday that a senior law enforcement official confirmed all 11 agents tied to the scandal were recalled from duty and placed on administrative leave before having their clearances pulled. The official also confirmed that two of the agents were supervisors and that three others were members of the agency’s counter-assault team.

According to earlier reports, the sexual encounters occurred between agents and prostitutes in the South American nation ahead of a visit by President Obama. Prostitution is legal in Colombia, but senior U.S. officials note that the incidents raise serious national security concerns for the nation. Some lawmakers have said by involving themselves, the agents could have left themselves vulnerable to blackmail or could have otherwise compromised national security.

When asked about reports of sexual misconduct by Secret Service agents on Sunday, Obama said he would be “angry” if the allegations turned out to be true. On Monday, Defense Department officials said the military’s involvement “embarrassed” them.

“I can speak for myself and … my fellow chiefs, we’re embarrassed by what occurred in Colombia,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference. “Several of our members distracted the issue from what was a very important regional engagement for our president.”

“We let the boss down,” Dempsey added.

Reports have said at least five U.S. military members may have also been involved in what senior officers described as “inappropriate conduct” while in Colombia in support of the Secret Services’ advance security operations. Pentagon officials so far, however, have provided few details regarding any military wrongdoing, Fox News reported. Other reports have said military personnel and Secret Service agents were all staying in the same hotel where the alleged prostitution is said to have occurred.

The nation’s top civilian military official, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, said Monday the administration – and the nation – deserves better from uniformed members.

“Whether our forces are in Colombia or any other country, or here in this country, we expect them to abide by the highest standards of behavior,” he said. “I don’t want to prejudge it, but obviously if violations are determined to have been the case, then these individuals will be held accountable.”

Obama discussed the allegations Sunday, saying Secret Service personnel, like the rest of any U.S. delegation traveling abroad, must “observe the highest standards.”

“We’re here on behalf of our people and that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity. And obviously what’s been reported doesn’t match up with those standards,” Obama said on the last day of his Colombian visit.

The president did say the Secret Service has revoked the security clearances for the 11 agents accused of misconduct over a prostitution scandal in Colombia — as the Pentagon looks at broadening its own investigation into the incident, which the top U.S. military official calls an embarrassment.

The fallout from the alleged misconduct has spread across both the Secret Service and the U.S. military. On the Secret Service side, a senior law enforcement official confirmed to Fox News that all 11 who were recalled and placed on administrative leave have had their clearances revoked. The official added that among the 11 are two supervisors and three members of the counter-assault team, indicating that senior officials are involved.

The incident late last week not only overshadowed President Obama’s visit to Colombia, but has raised troubling security questions. Some lawmakers have said agents could have been compromised, or opened themselves to blackmail, because of their actions.

Obama said Sunday he would be “angry” if the allegations turn out to be true. Defense officials said Monday they, too, were “embarrassed” by the role of military personnel.

“I can speak for myself and … my fellow chiefs, we’re embarrassed by what occurred in Colombia,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a news conference. “Several of our members distracted the issue from what was a very important regional engagement for our president.”

“We let the boss down,” Dempsey said.

At least five U.S. service members may have been involved in “inappropriate conduct” while in Colombia in support of the Secret Service team, according to the military. The Pentagon so far, though, has not provided many specifics on what wrongdoing military personnel are accused of committing, other than violating curfew. They were staying in the same hotel where a dispute with prostitutes is alleged to have occurred.

“Whether our forces are in Colombia or any other country, or here in this country, we expect them to abide by the highest standards of behavior,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday. “I don’t want to prejudge it, but obviously if violations are determined to have been the case, then these individuals will be held accountable.”

Obama addressed the incident for the first time on Sunday. He said Secret Service personnel, like the rest of any U.S. delegation abroad, must “observe the highest standards.”

“We’re here on behalf of our people and that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity. And obviously what’s been reported doesn’t match up with those standards,” Obama said, on the closing day of his visit to Colombia.

The president noted that the incident is an isolated one, and praised the Secret Service overall.

Obama cast the incident as isolated, and praised the Secret Service as a whole.

“These men and women perform extraordinary service on a day-to-day basis protecting me, my family, U.S. officials,” he said. “They do very hard work under very stressful circumstances and almost invariably do an outstanding job.”

© 2012 Newsroom America.


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