U.S. Secret Service agents leave Colombia over prostitution inquiry
By David Nakamura and Joe Davidson,
The U.S. Secret Service is investigating allegations of misconduct by agents who had been sent to Cartagena, Colombia, to provide security for President Obama’s trip to a summit that began there Friday.
Edwin Donovan, an agency spokesman, said that an unspecified number of agents have been recalled and replaced with others, stressing that Obama’s security has not been compromised because of the change. Obama arrived in Cartagena on Friday afternoon for this weekend’s Summit of the Americas, a gathering of 33 of the hemisphere’s 35 leaders to discuss economic policy and trade.
Donovan declined to disclose details about the nature of the alleged misconduct. But Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said the accusations relate to at least one agent having involvement with prostitutes in Cartagena.
In a statement, Donovan said the matter has been turned over to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which serves as the agency’s internal affairs unit.
“The Secret Service takes all allegations of misconduct seriously,” Donovan said. “These personnel changes will not affect the comprehensive security plan that has been prepared in advance of the President’s trip.”
Adler said the entire unit was recalled for purposes of the investigation. The Secret Service “responded appropriately” and is “looking at a very serious allegation,” he said, adding that the agency “needs to properly investigate and fairly ascertain the merits of the allegations.”
The Washington Post was alerted to the investigation by Ronald Kessler, a former Post reporter and author of several nonfiction books, including the book “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect.”
Kessler said he was told that a dozen agents had been removed from the trip. He added that soliciting prostitution is considered inappropriate by the Secret Service, even though it is legal in Colombia when conducted in designated “tolerance zones.” However, Kessler added, several of the agents involved are married.
There have been other incidents involving Obama’s security detail over the past year.
In November, Christopher W. Deedy, a federal agent with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, was charged with second-degree murder after shooting a man during a dispute outside a McDonald’s in Honolulu. Though Deedy was off-duty at the time, he was on the island to provide advance security arrangements for Obama’s trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
In August, Daniel L. Valencia, a Secret Service agent, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in Decorah, Iowa, where he was helping arrange security for Obama’s bus trip through three Midwestern states. Valencia, who was off-duty at the time of the arrest, was recently sentenced to two days in jail with credit for time served, and a fine of $1,250.
Related coverage: Obama promotes initiative to connect small businesses in the Americas Photos: Colombia gears up for the Summit of the Americas Colombia presents its new face