The prospect of Secret Service agents sharing embarrassing tales about rank-and-file employees and superiors partying to the hilt could bring more anguish to an agency reeling from scandal.
Those close to the accused employees said that in an effort to fight for their jobs they could opt to divulge details of how colleagues spent some of their downtime on presidential trips — drinking heavily, visiting strip clubs and cavorting with women for hire.
“Of course it has happened before” said one agent not implicated in the matter, remarking on the Secret Service’s history of occasionally licentious partying. “This is not the first time. It really only blew up in this case because the [U.S. Embassy] was alerted.”
In a statement Tuesday, Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey said the service “is committed to conducting a full, thorough and fair investigation in this matter, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action should any additional information come to light.”
President Obama, visiting the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Tuesday, faced questions from late-night host Jimmy Fallon about the quality of the president’s protectors. Obama stressed that the actions of a few should not overshadow the dedication of the agency.
“The Secret Service, these guys are incredible,” Obama said, according to a press pool report of his visit. “They protect me, they protect our girls. A couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do. What they were thinking, I don’t know. That’s why they’re not there anymore.”
Twelve Secret Service employees and 11 military service members have been implicated in the misconduct ahead of Obama’s trip this month to Cartagena, Colombia, for an economic summit. The men are accused of heavy drinking, visits to strip clubs and payments to prostitutes.
Last week, the agency moved to oust six of the service’s employees, including two supervisors, and cleared a seventh of serious misconduct. On Tuesday, it made decisions on the other five, saying that two more had agreed to resign, two would retain their service employment but face demotion, and another would be recommended for dismissal but could work for other federal agencies.
Lawrence Berger, attorney for several employees who were recommended for removal, declined to comment on his clients’ cases.
As the investigation continues, differing accounts have emerged about the men’s alleged behavior on the night of April 11 and morning of April 12. Congressional officials briefed on the investigation have said some of the men argued that they did not know the women were prostitutes when they brought them back to the Hotel Caribe, where they were lodging, not far from the Hilton where Obama was scheduled to stay.