Sullivan plans to present a strong defense of his staff while outlining steps to prevent a recurrence of the scandal. Edwards will discuss plans by his office to monitor and review the Secret Service investigation of its own dirty linen.
In testimony prepared for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Sullivan said U.S. intelligence agencies were asked to determine whether “any type of breach in operational security as a result of the incident” occurred, and none was found.
There were about 200 agency personnel in Cartagena, preparing security in advance of President Obama’s April trip, when a few took prostitutes to their hotel rooms. Nine were found to have been “involved in serious misconduct” and three were cleared of the most serious allegations, Sullivan said.
A foolish few should not sully the agency’s other 7,000 employees.
“I would submit to you,” Sullivan said in his prepared remarks, “that the officers, agents and administrative, professional and technical staff of the Secret Service are among the most dedicated, hardest-working, self-sacrificing employees within the federal government.”
Kind words about agency staffers will not deter hard questions for Sullivan. In a statement prepared for the hearing, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the top Republican on the committee, refused to view Cartagena as an aberration.
“The numbers involved, as well as the participation of two senior supervisors, make me believe that this was not a one-time event,” she said. “Rather, the circumstances unfortunately suggest an issue of culture.”
Noting allegations that members of the military and the Drug Enforcement Administration also were involved in Colombian misconduct, Collins added: “And it may well be that it’s a culture that spans agencies.”
Sullivan has formed the Professional Reinforcement Working Group to review the agency’s standards of conduct and to prepare an action plan to reinforce those standards. It will be led by John Berry, director of the Office of Personnel Management, and Connie Patrick, director of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
To determine what happened in Cartagena, the agency had interviewed more than 220 individuals by May 4. Sullivan said the incident happened the day before a scheduled April 12 security briefing for the agents.
“Thus, at the time the misconduct occurred,” he added, “none of the individuals involved in misconduct had received any specific protective information, sensitive security documents, firearms, radios or other security-related equipment in their hotel rooms.”
Security was not compromised, he said.
But it easily could have been, Collins insisted in her statement.