But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Tuesday that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told her that the preliminary investigation has determined that 20 or 21 women were brought to the hotel last Wednesday night. Agency investigators in Cartagena have obtained copies of the women’s identification cards, which they were required to present at the hotel, and are attempting to interview some of the women, said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), head of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
King said investigators have determined that none of the women were minors.
In a statement, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said that Sullivan briefed Collins on the investigation “and advised her that 21 U.S. personnel were involved, to include 11 Secret Service personnel. The allegations involved misconduct with women. The exact number of individuals beyond the U.S. personnel is still under investigation.”
The disclosures make clear that what first appeared to be an isolated case of misbehavior was in fact a night of more widespread debauchery that included heavy drinking and a trip to the Pleyclub, a strip club where the men allegedly paid for women’s services. The participation of two Secret Service supervisors, according to people with knowledge of the investigation, suggests that the men had little fear of repercussions — until hotel workers and Colombian police reported the matter to the U.S. Embassy.
At his daily briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama has “confidence” in Sullivan’s leadership of the Secret Service and is awaiting the results of an internal investigation.
“Sullivan acted quickly in response to this incident, and he’s overseeing an investigation as we speak,” Carney said. “This incident needs to be investigated, and it is being investigated. We need to see what the investigation reveals. We’re not going to speculate about the conclusions it might reach.”
Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Sullivan told her that “the most important quality for a Secret Service officer is character. If the facts prove to be as reported on this, this is an incredible lack of character and breach of security, and potentially extremely serious.”
The Secret Service has revoked the top-secret security clearances of the 11 men under investigation and placed them on administrative leave. The men have also turned in their agency BlackBerrys, said King, who said the men did not have any sensitive documents in their hotel rooms. He added that some of the men said they did not know that the women were prostitutes.