The repercussions from the burgeoning Colombia prostitution scandal continued to mount Friday as the U.S. Secret Service forced out three more employees, while agency director Mark Sullivan gave his first briefing to President Obama on the alleged misconduct of those in charge of protecting him.
Sullivan met with Obama in the Oval Office, a week after revelations first surfaced of heavy drinking, visits to strip clubs and payments to prostitutes on April 11 by members of the president’s advance security team, who were preparing for his trip to an international summit.
In his daily briefing at the White House, which occurred before Obama met with Sullivan, press secretary Jay Carney said the president is confident his security was “never compromised,” even though the Secret Service replaced at least 11 agents and officers just hours before Obama arrived in the city of Cartagena on April 13.
Obama has “faith in the Secret Service, and high regard for the agency and the job that they do protecting him, his family, protecting his predecessors,” Carney said.
The three Secret Service personnel forced out Friday have chosen to resign, the agency said in a statement, bringing to six the total number who have lost their jobs in the wake of the incident.
That total includes two supervisors, David Randall Chaney and Greg Stokes, who were pushed out Wednesday after careers that spanned nearly two decades each. Chaney has elected to retire, while Stokes has been recommended for termination for cause and will be given a chance to contest the charges.
In all, 22 men from the Secret Service and military are now suspected of having participated in the carousing. The military said Friday that 11 of its members have been implicated, one more than previously reported.
Six are from the Army, two from the Marine Corps, two from the Navy and one from the Air Force, according to Col. Scott Malcom, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command.
The Army personnel are from the 7th Special Forces Group; the Marines and sailors work in San Diego; and the airman is based in Charleston, S.C., Malcom said in a statement. The service members have returned to their home bases pending a separate investigation by the Defense Department.
Also, the Secret Service announced that one of its 11 employees originally under investigation has been cleared of “serious misconduct” but will face administrative action. However, the agency said a 12th man has been implicated.
Asked if there was a cultural problem within the service, Carney said the White House would “wait for the conclusion of the investigation into this specific incident” before determining if a deeper review is necessary.
Investigators for both the Secret Service and the military are interviewing workers at two hotels in Cartagena — the Hotel Caribe, where most of Obama’s advance team were staying, and the Hilton, where the president and his staff were guests.
The investigators have sought to interview some of the 21 women alleged to have been brought by the Americans to the Hotel Caribe. The men have given conflicting accounts of what took place, with some saying they did not know the women were working as prostitutes, according to people briefed on the investigation.