Secret Service hooker scandal: Top brass takes heat as 11 agents are placed on paid administrative leave
Five of the 11 Secret Service agents were members of the elite Counter-Assault TeamBy Edgar Sandoval In Cartagena, Colombia, Joseph Straw, Alison Gendar AND Tracy Connor
April 17, 2012
The nation's top general publicly tried to wipe the egg off his face in the Colombian prostitution scandal, saying some members of the military and the Secret Service let Obama down.
“Several of our members distracted the issue from what was a very important regional engagement for our President,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon press briefing.
“So, we let the boss down because nobody’s talking about what’s going on in Colombia other than this incident.”
The fallout from the sexcapades is still growing. The Secret Service placed 11 agents on paid administrative leave and stripped them of their security clearances. Two supervisors were among those placed on leave.
Five of the 11 Secret Service agents were members of the elite Counter-Assault Team, which protects the presidential motorcade.
A federal official briefed on the probe told the Daily News on Monday that there were initial concerns that some of the hookers were underage. Authorities have been told all the prostitutes were 18 years or older — the age of consent in Colombia — but they’re still checking if that’s true, the source said.
If any of the women were minors, it would compound the disgraceful episode that has overshadowed President Obama’s mission to Latin America and shamed the Secret Service and the Pentagon.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said five U.S. service members were charged with violating curfew, adding that a preliminary investigation revealed additional “personnel may have been involved.”
The personnel were all staying at the luxury hotel Caribe in Cartagena before Obama and Secretary of State Clinton arrived for the diplomatic trip.
The Secret Service agents allegedly took hookers from the dingy dirty-dancers Pley Club back to their rooms for sex romps that came to light when one of them refused to pay for the services. Each of the men, some of whom are married, took a woman for himself.
The hookers who serviced the agents have clammed up, but other Cartagena ladies say the federal security men were just acting like ordinary tourists.
“This happens a lot,” said Maria Jose, 34. “A client took me to a hotel. In the morning I told him it was time for him to pay me. . . . He wanted to hit me.”
Obama was forced to address the scandal at a press conference with the Colombian president.
And photos of Clinton dancing and drinking beer during a brief stop at a club in Cartagena the day after the agents were disciplined became big news.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has launched an investigation but said he doesn’t see any reason for Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to resign.
"All the information we have is that once he and the agency learned of this problem, the agents were on the first plane back to the States,” King said.
“No one tried to cover it up or downplay it.”
The general in charge of the Army’s Southern Command is looking into the military end of the scandal.
“Whether our forces are in Colombia or any other country or in this country we expect them to abide by the highest standard of behavior,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
“I don't want to prejudge it, but obviously if violations are determined to have been the case then these individuals are to be held accountable.”