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Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 05/08/2012

In hours after Colombia sex scandal, ‘significant gaps’ in military chain of command, lawmaker says

Pentagon investigators have identified “significant gaps” in notification of the military chain of command in the hours after military personnel and U.S. Secret Service employees came into contact with prostitutes in Colombia, a senior lawmaker said Tuesday.

The Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, where some U.S. Secret Service and military personnel stayed in mid-April. (MANUEL PEDRAZA - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said that military personnel assigned to President Obama’s trip to Colombia failed to promptly notify the chain of command of the events that unfolded and did not consult Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of U.S. Southern Command, on the decision to permit the 12 military personnel to stay in Colombia as Obama’s trip began and military officials launched an investigation. Military officials also failed to notify the chain of command of the assignment of some personnel to the Colombia trip, Levin said.

Levin said he was especially concerned that Fraser wasn’t consulted on the decision to allow the 12 to stay, saying that he should have been permitted to weigh in on the decision.

“Whether that was a correct or incorrect decision will be the subject perhaps of discussion,” Levin said, adding that military officials had assured him the situation would be properly addressed.

The military’s decision to allow the 12 military personnel to stay in Colombia contrasts with the action taken by the U.S. Secret Service, which moved immediately to send home 11 employees initially implicated in the scandal.

Levin and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) were briefed by military officials Tuesday. The meeting was “a dramatic improvement,” McCain said, over a previous briefing on the scandal that he had criticized as incomplete and poorly prepared.

Levin said after the briefing that military investigators have found there was no security risk to Obama because the military personnel did not have copies of his travel schedule.

Southern Command, which oversees military operations in Latin America, said Tuesday that it has completed its probe and that officials are working to determine proper disciplinary action for the 12 personnel involved. In a statement, Southern Command said it plans to brief all civilian and military Defense Department personnel deploying to missions across Latin America “on acceptable and unacceptable practices and the important role they play as representatives of the U.S. government and American people.”

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