Congress presses investigation of Secret Service scandal

Two senior Republicans in the House of Representatives expressed confidence on Sunday in the head of the U.S. Secret Service, despite the agency’s Colombia prostitution scandal while a Senate committee chairman planned hearings into the matter.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent, said that the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that he chairs will send specific questions to the Secret Service this week about the scandal before the panel holds public hearings.

The Secret Service, which protects the president, vice president and other prominent U.S. political figures, said on Friday that three more of its employees resigned. That brought to six the number who have departed in connection with alleged misconduct involving prostitutes in Colombia this month before President Barack Obama’s trip to the seaside city of Cartagena.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King told Fox News that the latest and 12th Secret Service employee implicated in the investigation apparently was involved in separate, prior incident several days before Obama’s arrival in Colombia. King did not elaborate.

Lieberman told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that the employee, unlike the other Secret Service personnel caught up in events, was booked at the same hotel where Obama was to stay, the Hilton.

“Now we don’t know at this point what that twelfth agent is being charged with and why he’s been put on administrative leave. But now you’re into the hotel where the president of the United States was going to stay. And it just gets more troubling,” Lieberman said.

King told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he expects several more Secret Service agents to leave “within the very near future.”

At least 21 women were brought back to a beach-front hotel and the behavior of the Secret Service men was exposed when one of the Colombian women complained that she had not been paid enough, resulting in local police getting involved.

Lieberman also said the White House should launch its own internal review of all White House personnel and advance teams who were in Cartagena “to make sure that no one working for the White House was involved in any of the same kind of inappropriate behavior that the Secret Service agents were.”

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan was given an endorsement on Sunday by King and a second Republican House committee chairman.

“Director Sullivan, from the moment this broke, has moved effectively and this investigation is going full speed ahead,” King said. “I believe Director Sullivan has done a fine job.”

King added that procedures must be put in place “to ensure it never happens again.”

Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told “Meet the Press” that he has “great confidence” in Sullivan’s handling of the investigation into the matter that officials said also involved 11 members of the U.S. military.

Asked whether he has confidence in Sullivan, Lieberman said, “I do at this point. … I think he’s conducting a comprehensive investigation.”


Lieberman said his committee’s investigation will seek to determine whether the actions in Colombia were part of a pattern of behavior that happened over time elsewhere and what steps will be implemented to prevent any such actions in the future.

“It’s more serious than just a frolic. History is full of cases where enemies have compromised people and security or intelligence of positions with sex,” Lieberman said on the program “Fox News Sunday.”

He told “Face the Nation”: “For Secret Service agents who have the responsibility to protect the president, to act as these people did in Cartagena, as if they were college kids on a spring break, is reprehensible.”

King’s office released a letter he sent to Sullivan, dated Friday, asking for answers to 50 questions about the matter, including whether any White House officials were involved in the incident in Cartagena.

David Axelrod, senior advisor to Obama’s re-election campaign, said the president has confidence in Sullivan and the Secret Service. “But this is really disturbing. We have to get to the bottom of it and I’m sure that we will,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Jason Lange, John Crawley and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Trott and Christopher Wilson)


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