Secret Service employees paid 9 of the 12 women they met in Colombia, agency says

May 3, 2012

U.S. Secret Service employees tied to last month’s night of heavy drinking, partying and sexual encounters in Cartagena, Colombia, paid nine of the 12 women they met with that night, according to new information provided to congressional offices.

Agency officials investigating the scandal have interviewed 10 of the 12 women involved — who range in age from 20 to 39 — and plan to speak with the other women soon. None of the women were found to be connected to terrorist organizations or drug cartels, the new material showed.

Secret Service officials late Tuesday submitted 24 pages of written answers to two House committees investigating the scandal but asked that the documents — deemed “law enforcement sensitive” — not be distributed publicly, according to congressional officials who reviewed the responses.

In all, the Secret Service told congressional offices that it deployed 175 agents and officers to Colombia last month for President Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas. Of those, 135 employees stayed at the Hotel Caribe, where the prostitution scandal unfolded, congressional officials said.

Two of the 12 employees implicated in the scandal were supervisors, three were snipers, and another three were members of a Secret Service counterassault team. Their careers ranged in length from two years to 22 years, the congressional officials said.

Nine of the 12 employees completed polygraph exams, but three employees refused to take them, including a supervisor whose decision not to pay a woman led hotel management and local police to alert U.S. Embassy officials to the misconduct, congressional officials said.

At least four congressional committees are tracking the unfolding scandal, and the Department of Homeland Security inspector general is conducting a broader inquiry into how the agency responded to the misconduct.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said the written responses to 50 questions he submitted to the Secret Service will help form the basis of his panel’s ongoing investigation. But he added: “We’re also waiting for those statements from the women. That will fill in a lot of the gaps.”

On Wednesday, the Secret Service held the first of now­mandatory ethics courses for its 3,500 agents and 1,400 uniformed officers. Professors from Johns Hopkins University who specialize in ethics and management training led the course, which was attended by roughly 100 employees at an agency facility in Laurel, according to Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who was invited by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to speak at the first class, said he planned to voice support for rank-and-file employees.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for these guys,” Cummings said in an interview. “These ladies and gentlemen have signed up with a willingness to take a bullet for somebody else, and that’s pretty patriotic to me and pretty courageous.”

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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