“We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused,” Morrissey said in a statement.
The rapidly unfolding scandal has upstaged Obama’s trip to the summit, where he is discussing trade and the economy with 32 other heads of state. Though the agency has said Obama’s security was not compromised, the allegations of misconduct have brought intense scrutiny to an agency that had not had a major lapse since 2009, when two party crashers entered the White House uninvited.
The situation deteriorated further Saturday when the Defense Department announced that five military personnel, who are staying at the same hotel, violated curfew Wednesday night and have been confined to their rooms. The department will conduct its own investigation upon their return to the United States, said Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser of the U.S. Southern Command, where the military personnel were from.
Fraser said he was “disappointed by the entire incident and . . . this behavior is not in keeping with the professional standards expected of members of the United States military.”
Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said Saturday that Secret Service officials conducting an internal investigation told him that the staff at the Hotel Caribe summoned local police after discovering a woman in the room of one agent after 7 a.m., against the hotel’s policy for visitors of paying guests.
Although the agent eventually paid the woman and she left, King added, police reported the incident to the U.S. Embassy, which informed the Secret Service. The agency quickly recalled the agents and replaced them with a new team before Obama’s arrival Friday afternoon at the Hilton a few blocks away.
King praised the agency for removing the men involved, but he added that “everything they did was a violation of proper conduct.”
“First of all, to be getting involved with prostitutes in a foreign country can leave yourself vulnerable to blackmail and threats,” King said. “To be bringing prostitutes or almost anyone into a security zone when you’re supposed to protect the president is totally wrong.”
Briefing reporters in Cartagena, press secretary Jay Carney said the White House learned of the incident Thursday and Obama was informed Friday.
“This has not been a distraction,” Carney said. “It has been much more so for the press than for the president, who is going on with his work here.”
The Hotel Caribe is in Bocagrande, a seaside district of Cartagena. It’s not a colonial hotel, like those in the old walled city, but rather an elegant, decades-old structure that is considered a national patrimony. Locals consider it a good place to party — there is a beachfront bar-restaurant in front of the hotel and inside it has gardens and bars.