Additional Secret Service Agent Misconduct Surfaces In Prostitution Scandal Investigation

May 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Amid an ongoing investigation into a prostitution scandal involving Secret Service members, new details have emerged about additional sexual misconduct allegations that have been leveled at Secret Service agents over the last five years.

In a Wednesday Senate Homeland Security hearing investigating the scandal, which rocked the agency in April after a dozen secret service officers were implicated for hiring prostitutes in Colombia, Senator Joe Lieberman, the chair of the committee, noted 64 additional allegations of misconduct over the last five years – including one complaint of non-consensual sex.

Lieberman said that most of the complaints “involved sending sexually explicit emails or sexually explicit material on a government computer,” but that three of the complaints involved charges of a relationship with a foreign national, “and one was a complaint of non-consensual sexual intercourse.”

Mark Sullivan, the head of the Secret Service, testified that the allegation of non-consensual sex had been thoroughly investigated by law enforcement, which ultimately decided not to go forward with charges. The other three incidents, he said, involved contact with foreign nationals and that all of the incidents “were investigated and the appropriate administrative action was taken on all three.” According to Sullivan, none of those three incidents involved prostitution.

Sullivan also discussed an incident in which an agent was “separated from the agency” after soliciting an undercover police officer posing as a prostitute in 2008.

In his opening remarks, Sullivan apologized for the Colombia incident and emphasized that what happened in Cartagena last month “is not representative of [the agency’s] values or of the high ethical standards we demand from our nearly 7,000 employees.”

“I am deeply disappointed and I apologize for the misconduct of these employees and the distraction it has caused,” he said.

Of primary concern among the committee members was the question of whether or not there may have been a “culture” within the Secret Service that tolerated the sort of behavior in which members engaged last month — particularly after the Washington Post reported Wednesday that several implicated agents charged that was the case.

“It is hard for many people, including me, to believe that on one night in April 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia, 11 secret service agents – there to protect the president – suddenly and spontaneously did something they or other agents had never done before,” Lieberman said in his testimony.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, also seemed skeptical that the incident in Colombia was a unique case.

“The facts so far lead me to conclude that, while not at all representative of the majority of Secret Service personnel, this misconduct was almost certainly not an isolated incident,” she said in her opening statement. “The numbers [of agents] involved, as well as the participation of two senior supervisors, lead me to believe that this was not a one-time event. Rather, and it suggests an issue of culture.”

Collins later pointed to the fact that the involved agents had engaged in similar behaviors independently of each other, as well as the fact that they disguised neither their own nor the prostitutes’ identities when signing into the hotel, as evidence that similar conduct may have been tolerated by the Secret Service in the past.

“Two of the participants were supervisors — one with 22 years of service and the other with 21 — and both were married. That surely sends a message to the rank and file that this kind of activity is tolerated on the road,” she said.

Throughout his testimony, Sullivan disputed that characterization and reiterated his belief that the incident in Colombia was not reflective of the agency as a whole.

“I do not think this is indicative,” he said. “I just think that between the alcohol and, I don’t know, the environment, these individuals did some really dumb things. And I just can’t explain why.”

He also emphasized that President Obama’s security was never at risk because the agents had not yet been briefed on relevant security-related details.

“At the time the misconduct occurred, none of the individuals involved in the misconduct had received any specific protective information, sensitive security documents, firearms, radios or other security-related equipment in their hotel rooms,” he said.

Lieberman reported that the investigation had revealed “troubling” incidents but said that so far it had failed to show “a pattern of misconduct” within the agency at large. He called on whistle blowers to come forward with any additional reports of untoward behavior.

“Our initial review of our Secret Service Agency’s disciplinary records for the last five years … show some individual cases of misconduct that are troubling but are not evidence yet of a pattern of misconduct,” Lieberman said. “These records do reveal 64 instances, again over 5 years in which allegations or complaints concerning sexual misconduct were made against employees of the Secret Service.”

According to acting Inspector General Charles Edwards, who is conducting a three-part independent review of the Secret Service investigation, conclusions from the first phase of the review will be made public in July.

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Four Secret Service Agents Fired In Columbian Hooker-Gate Scandal To Fight Dismissals

May 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Four Secret Service employees have decided to fight their dismissals for engaging in inappropriate conduct in Colombia last month, a development that could unravel what has been a swift and tidy resolution to an embarrassing scandal over agents’ hiring of prostitutes.

The agents are arguing that the agency is making them scapegoats for behavior that the Secret Service has long tolerated, a charge that Director Mark Sullivan may have to address when he appears before a Senate committee Wednesday. He has not spoken in public about the controversy, but according to his prepared testimony, he plans to tell Congress that there was no breach of operational security.

Several of the implicated agents have told associates that the facts of what happened in Cartagena differ from initial media accounts describing a group outing of a dozen men in search of prostitutes. Instead, the men went to different bars and clubs and met women under a variety of circumstances, in some cases resulting in voluntary trysts that did not involve money.

One 29-year-old field agent assigned to the Washington office, who is single and who resigned under the threat of being fired, told investigators in a polygraph examination that he did not think at the time that the two women he brought back to his hotel room were prostitutes. He is among those seeking to overturn their dismissals, according to three people familiar with his case.

The scandal has badly damaged the Secret Service’s reputation, and the fallout has spread to other federal agencies. A dozen members of the military also are accused of hiring prostitutes on the trip, and the Drug Enforcement Administration is looking into allegations, made by a Secret Service agent during the investigation, that DEA members had previously brought prostitutes to their apartments in Cartagena.

According to interviews with multiple former and current employees and people briefed on the inquiry, the Secret Service agents involved brought women to their hotel rooms without hesi­ta­tion. The agency says it was clear that employees should not do anything unbecoming of a Secret Service employee. Current and former agency employees say sexual encounters during official travel had been condoned under an unwritten code that allows what happens on the road to stay there.

They also contend that this tolerance is part of the “Secret Circus” — a mocking nickname that some employees use to describe what ensues when large numbers of agents and officers arrive in a city.

Shortly after landing in Cartagena at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, April 11, the 55 or so Secret Service members had down time to explore the Caribbean resort. They were there to provide extra security for Obama’s visit for an international summit but had two days before the commander in chief arrived. In Cartagena, prostitution is legal in designated “tolerance zones.”

Secret Service supervisor David Chaney, 48, had spent two decades with the agency and was among the most senior on the plane. He headed out that night to a strip club called the Pley Club, with junior agents in tow, according to two people with knowledge of the events.

Colleagues describe Chaney as gregarious — quick with a joke and to rally for colleagues facing a crisis — and too eager to befriend his subordinates. Efforts to reach Chaney were unsuccessful. Larry Berger, Chaney’s attorney, declined to discuss the details of the case, but said his client put the mission first and never compromised the president’s security.

Chaney has been married for 20 years, but that night he and his colleagues paid the Pley Club a small fee to take at least two of the performers back to the Hotel Caribe, where they and other members of Obama’s advance team were staying, according to the two people familiar with what happened that night.

Separately, a pair of married Secret Service agents who worked together on the agency’s tight-knit, elite counter­assault team — Arthur Huntington and Joe Bongino — headed to the historic old city of Cartagena. They hit the Hard Rock Cafe, which had been recommended in the briefing guide prepared by the State Department, but it was dead. They moved down the street to Tu Candela, a popular bar and disco.

Although the service warns agents in training seminars that extramarital affairs could expose them to blackmail, some married agents are widely known to cheat on their wives. Associates said Huntington, 41, was one who acted differently on many of his trips than he did at home.

Efforts to reach Bongino and Huntington, who has since moved with his wife and two young sons out of their Severna Park home, were unsuccessful.

Huntington’s family has been active in Granite Baptist Church in Glen Burnie.

In Cartagena, while at Tu Candela that Wednesday night, Huntington asked Dania Suarez, a 24-year-old prostitute, to spend the night with him. She agreed in exchange for a “gift” of $800, she later told a television interviewer. Her girlfriend agreed to join Bongino for no charge, Suarez said. People briefed on the investigation corroborated this version of events.

A total of 12 agents were implicated in the activities of that night, after registering the women at the Hotel Caribe’s front desk in keeping with the hotel’s policy for non-paying overnight guests, according to multiple people briefed on the investigation.

Three of those implicated, including Bongino, were cleared of serious misconduct charges. In addition to the four who are challenging their dismissals, at least four others were forced out: Chaney, who immediately took early retirement; Huntington, who was pushed to resign; and two others, who were also dismissed. The fate of one agent is unknown.

One of those cleared is a single agent who speaks Spanish, and who picked up a local woman at the same bar and took her back to his hotel independent of his colleagues, according to two people briefed on the incident. He — along with Bongino and another colleague — kept their jobs after proving that they did not pay for sex. But both the Spanish-speaking agent and Bongino have been shifted off the elite counter­assault team, those briefed on the incident said.

One of those who resigned under pressure but now wants to reverse that move is the single 29-year-old from the Washington field office, who was out with a divorced co-worker from the same office that night. They asked their server at dinner to recommend a non-touristy place for drinks, according to three individuals briefed on the inquiry.

They were directed to a bar with an Egyptian theme, a deejay and a dance floor. Both men later took women from the bar back to their hotel. The divorced colleague has been cleared in the incident, insisting that he told his guest to leave when she asked for money, although he faces minor administrative action.

The 29-year-old agent has told investigators a similar story: that he took two women to his room without realizing they were prostitutes. He maintained, under a polygraph exam, that he told the women to leave when they asked for money for sex, according to associates familiar with his account. He has withdrawn his resignation.

The Washington Post is not naming three of the agents who are fighting their ousters because their cases have not been resolved. Agency supervisor Greg Stokes, another employee recommended for termination and now pushing back against his punishment, has been named in previous reports.

One of those contesting his treatment was not originally under suspicion. That agent took a woman to a different hotel on another night and later came forward voluntarily to inform his bosses that he, too, had a sexual encounter.

The ramifications for that agent have been severe: His pregnant wife threatened to move out, his colleagues said. Like his peers, he was pressured to resign. He hired an attorney to determine whether he can fight for his job.

The morning after the carousing, the party ended for all when Huntington refused to pay Suarez and, she said, pushed her out of his room into the seventh-floor hallway, setting off the dispute that would lead to the exposure of the misconduct.

What none of the agents realized was the extent to which the Secret Service already had irritated the hotel manager, even before the hallway disturbance. The manager, according to people familiar with the investigation, was infuriated by the noise the agents made at the hotel bar and the inconvenience they caused other guests.

Outside the Hotel Caribe, Secret Service officers had repeatedly allowed their bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois shepherds to defecate on the lone grassy patch along the hotel’s beachfront property — directly in front of the hotel manager’s apartment. The manager did not respond to e-mails and phone messages seeking comment.

After Colombian police alerted the U.S. Embassy, a Secret Service official dispatched to the hotel to investigate found the manager waiting with a clipboard full of complaints and quick to provide names.

On the afternoon of April 12, Paula Reid, the special agent in charge of Miami and South America, conducted initial interviews with the 12 men in Cartagena. Sullivan later ordered all 12 flown home the following morning, just hours before Obama arrived.

But their accounts varied — much more widely than initially reported. Agency investigators concluded that nine of the 12 men paid or solicited prostitutes, but the agents now disputing the findings insist that the punishment outweighs their crimes.

One of the implicated men has told associates that a senior security supervisor had advised agents to follow loose guidelines when spending time with women they met on the road: One-night stands were permitted, this supervisor explained, as long as the relationships were cut off when the agents left the country.

Now, the agency is underscoring off-duty conduct more clearly.

“You should always assume you are being watched when on an official assignment,” a director responsible for the counterassault team warned in a memo to staff members last week. “Do not put yourself in a situation in your personal or professional life that would cause embarrassment to you, your family, or the Secret Service.”

The agency’s rush to judgment came as a shock to the Spanish-speaker, who asked his overnight guest to write a note to his superiors that he thought would clear his name.

“I voluntarily spent the night,” this woman wrote, according to a document reviewed by The Post. “He only gave me $12 to pay for my taxi. . . . It was a pleasure meeting [him] and before saying goodbye I gave him my e-mail address hoping to see him again.”

Only one agent was completely cleared, after proving that someone else had improperly used his name to register a female guest.

Staff writers Carlos Lozada and Joe Davidson and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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Prostitute At Center Of Secret Service Columbian Hooker-Gate Scandal Says Agents “…Were A Bunch Of Fools.”

May 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – New York Republican Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, acted after Dania Londono Suarez appeared on television to reveal her side of the story.

She said that it would have been easy for her to steal any of the documents or plans that President Barack Obama’s bodyguards had with them in a hotel room on a presidential trip to Cartagena, Columbia, last month.

Miss Suarez said: “They were a bunch of fools. They are responsible for Obama’s security and they still let this happen.

“I could have done a thousand other things. If I had wanted to, I could have gone through all his documents, his wallet, his suitcase.”

Miss Suarez told Caracol News in Cartegena that she called the police after the Secret Service agent with whom she spent the night refused to pay her the $800 (£500) he had promised.
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“Let’s go, bitch – I’m not going to pay you,” she said that he told her before throwing her out of the room in the early morning.

A Secret Service investigation into “misconduct” has resulted in nine of the 12 agents that made up the president’s advance security team to Cartegena losing their jobs. But Miss Suarez said that although she was at the heart of the scandal, she had not been interviewed by US investigators.

A visibly angry Congressman King said this weekend: “I have asked the Secret Service for an explanation of how they have failed to find this woman when the news media seems to have no trouble doing so.”

Mr King said it was important that she was interviewed to ensure that the president’s security was not compromised. A Secret Service source told The Sunday Telegraph that “no stone will be left unturned” and that Mr King’s demands were being taken very seriously.

Miss Suarez said in her interview that she and some girlfriends had met a group of American men in a bar on April 11 and drank two bottles of vodka with them. She had no idea that they worked for the Secret Service when one of them asked her to return with him to his hotel room.

Miss Suarez agreed to go after the agent promised to give her a “little gift” of $800-dollars. But next morning he threw her out without paying and when she knocked on the hotel room door of another agent he refused to help her.

Miss Suarez said: “I said in Spanish, ‘Look, if you show no consideration for me, why would I have consideration toward you and not call the police? In that moment, I felt strong’.”

Prostitution is legal in Colombia and Miss Suarez said she had every right to be paid for her services. She said: “I told him, there’s a problem here. Because if I had come with you to enjoy myself that would have been one thing. But I didn’t come to enjoy myself. I had to beg from 6.30 am to 10.00 am for him to pay me.”

At first the agent offered her about $27 to pay for a taxi home and eventually after she returned to the hotel room with a police officer he gave her $250-dollars (£155)

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US Secret Service Agent’s Columbian Prostitute Begged For Hours To Be Paid – Agent Offered $27 After Receiving $800 In Services – Ending Up Paying Just $250 After Police Were Involved, Stiffing His Whore Out Of $550

May 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – One of the Colombian prostitutes involved in a sex scandal with US Secret Service agents broke her silence Friday to tell how she had begged for hours to be paid $800 for her services.

“I told him, there’s a problem here. Because if I had come with you to enjoy myself that would have been one thing. But I didn’t come to enjoy myself,” Dania Londono told Caracol Television and W radio. “I had to beg from 6:30 am to 10:00am for him to pay me.”

Londono told the television she had met the men when she was in a bar in Cartagena, Colombia, with three of her friends.

They drank two bottles of vodka with the men and danced and then they agreed to go back to their hotel rooms, but Londono insisted she had asked the man she was with to give her an $800 “gift” in return.

“We danced and when we left I said, ‘Well, love, you have to give me $800, that is the gift I want to go with you,'” she noted. “He said, ‘Okay, baby. Let’s go to the hotel.’

“Neither my friend nor I were aware that they were agents of Obama at all.”

She said the next morning when she asked for her money, he swore at her and offered her 50,000 pesos ($27) for a taxi fare. Eventually with the intervention of a local police officer, who was guarding the hotel corridor, she accepted $250.

The Secret Service has been scrambling to contain the scandal that originated in Colombia in mid-April when US President Barack Obama was visiting to attend the Summit of the Americas.

More than two dozen Secret Service agents and military personnel were sent home from Cartagena where they had been preparing security for Obama’s visit.

They were accused of drinking heavily, visiting a strip club and consorting with prostitutes, including bringing sex workers to their hotel rooms.

Eight agents have since been dismissed, the security clearance of one other has been permanently revoked, and three others have been cleared of major misconduct, according to the agency.

Investigations into the actions by the agents and some 12 military personnel are ongoing.

Londono dismissed the agents as “a bunch of fools… They are responsible for Obama’s security and they still let this happen… I could have done a thousand other things,” she said, according to a transcript on CNN.

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3 Of 12 Secret Service Agents Initially Investigated In Columbian Prostitution Scandal Refused Polygraph Tests, Got The Boot

May 2, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Three of the 12 Secret Service agents involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal refused to cooperate with authorities and submit to a polygraph test, according to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-New York.

The three agents were among the first forced out of the service when news of the scandal in Cartagena broke, King told CNN late Tuesday. The nine remaining agents took the polygraph. And while none of them failed the test, some responses led to the loss of several jobs.

King received the information as a part of a response to 50 questions he sent to Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan on April 20. Sullivan submitted his answers to King on Tuesday.

While King did not send CNN copies of the responses — which he said are marked “law enforcement sensitive” — he highlighted several details.

Among other things, one agent said in the polygraph test that he was “actively engaged” with one of the prostitutes when he said she wanted to get paid, King said. In response, the agent threw her out of his room.

The agent told U.S. officials he didn’t realize the woman was a prostitute, and has not been fired.

U.S. officials have now interviewed 10 of the 12 women involved in the scandal, King noted. The Secret Service and Colombian authorities are currently trying to track down the remaining two.

King stressed what he called a “pleasant surprise” — Sullivan’s decision to call the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general before bringing the agents back from Colombia.

King said there weren’t many surprises in the responses to his questionnaire.

“Sullivan was giving us good information all along,” he told CNN.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the panel’s ranking Democrat, have submitted another 10 questions to Sullivan, including a precise time line of exactly what happened in Cartagena.

The pair also sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting details of a military investigation by May 8.

In their correspondence to Panetta, Issa and Cummings said security personnel showed an “alarming lack” of “character” and “judgment.”

The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general is currently investigating the scandal, in addition to four congressional committees as well as internal reviews by the agency, the military and the White House.

The top legislators on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said earlier Tuesday they’ve also sent a letter to Sullivan asking for information on the incident. A total of nine agents have resigned or are in the process of being forced out.

Three other Secret Service agents were cleared of serious misconduct, and the military is investigating the alleged involvement of 12 of its service members.

On Monday, the Homeland Security official announced his separate investigation of the incident, which embarrassed the government and raised questions of a possible security breach before President Barack Obama arrived for the Summit of the Americas.

The “field work is beginning immediately,” acting Inspector General Charles Edwards said in a statement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the controversy at a hearing last week. On Tuesday, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins said they sent Sullivan a letter Monday that also sought answers about what happened.

“We wish to determine whether those events were indicative of a pattern of behavior by agents or officers of the Secret Service, and need to be addressed systemically, or if they instead constituted an isolated incident warranting action only with respect to the individuals involved,” said the letter from Lieberman and Collins.

The U.S. Southern Command expects to finish questioning the 12 military personnel implicated in possible wrongdoing this week before forwarding its findings to military lawyers for review, and then to Gen. Douglas Fraser, commanding general of the U.S. Southern Command, a Defense Department official said Monday.

Last week, the Secret Service distributed new rules for its agents on assignment intended to prevent a repeat of such alleged misconduct, according to two government sources familiar with the resulting investigation.

Enhanced Standards of Conduct, the new guidelines given to all Secret Service personnel, make clear that standards of behavior required in the United States apply on missions abroad, the sources said.

Effective immediately, the new standards require detailed briefings before each trip that will include safety precautions and any necessary designations of establishments and areas that are “off limits” for Secret Service personnel, the sources said.

Also in the new standards, foreigners are banned from Secret Service hotel rooms at all times, except for hotel staff and host nation law enforcement and government officials on official business, according to the officials, and all Secret Service personnel are prohibited from going to a “nonreputable establishment.”

The new standards specify that U.S. laws apply to Secret Service personnel when traveling, rendering invalid the excuse that specific activity is legal in the foreign country, the officials said.

In addition, the new guidelines allow moderate alcohol consumption when off duty, but prohibit alcohol consumption within 10 hours of reporting for duty or at any time when at the hotel where the protected official is staying, the officials explained.

An additional supervisor from the Office of Professional Responsibility will now accompany the “jump teams” that bring vehicles for motorcades and other transportation, the officials said. Agents involved in the Colombia incident were part of such a jump team.

Allegations of further transgressions by agents have emerged after the initial reports of heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes last month before Obama arrived in Cartagena.

Recent claims include an account from El Salvador described by CNN affiliate Seatte TV station KIRO as very similar to the Colombia scandal, involving members of the Secret Service and other government agencies.

However, Panetta said last week that his department is not investigating any of its troops over the reported incident in El Salvador, while State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said embassy staff in El Salvador were being questioned about the allegations

The Drug Enforcement Administration also is prepared to look into, “in an appropriate manner and immediately,” allegations that it deems “credible” regarding its agents in El Salvador, agency spokesman Rusty Payne said. But he added that, while the DEA had seen news reports, “we are unaware of any allegations of misconduct.”

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Hooker-Gate: Homeland Security Opens Second Investigation Into Secret Service Prostitution Scandal

May 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security is launching a separate investigation into the Secret Service prostitution scandal.

The “field work is beginning immediately,” acting Inspector General Charles Edwards said in a statement issued Monday.

The DHS review is in addition to an internal probe the Secret Service is already conducting as well as a military investigation into U.S. troops linked to the controversy.

The development comes as Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan faces a pair of deadlines Tuesday to answer dozens of questions about the issue.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-New York, submitted 50 questions to Sullivan, while House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings, the panel’s ranking Democrat, have 10 questions they want answered, including a precise time line of exactly what happened in Cartagena.

“The incident in Cartagena is troubling because Secret Service agents and officers made a range of bad decisions,” they said.

Issa and Cummings also sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting details of the military investigation by May 8.

The incident last month before President Barack Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia involved Secret Service and U.S. military members who allegedly consorted with prostitutes.

Twenty-four people have been linked to the scandal: 12 from the Secret Service and 12 from the military.

In their correspondence to Panetta, Issa and Cummings said security personnel showed an “alarming lack” of “character” and “judgment.”

Nine of the Secret Service members have resigned or are being forced out, and three others were cleared of serious misconduct, while a separate military investigation has yet to announce any measures against the members allegedly involved.

The U.S. Southern Command expects to finish questioning the 12 military personnel early this week before forwarding its findings to military lawyers for review, and then to Gen. Douglas Fraser, commanding general of the U.S. Southern Command, a Defense Department official said Monday.

On Friday, the Secret Service distributed new rules for its agents on assignment intended to prevent a repeat of such alleged misconduct, according to two government sources familiar with the resulting investigation.

Called Enhanced Standards of Conduct, the new guidelines given to all Secret Service personnel make clear that standards of behavior required in the United States apply on missions abroad, the sources said.

Effective immediately, the new standards require detailed briefings before each trip that will include safety precautions and any necessary designations of establishments and areas that are “off limits” for Secret Service personnel, the sources said.

Also in the new standards, foreigners are banned from Secret Service hotel rooms at all times, except for hotel staff and host nation law enforcement and government officials on official business, according to the officials, and all Secret Service personnel are prohibited from going to a “non-reputable establishment.”

The new standards specify that U.S. laws apply to Secret Service personnel when traveling, rendering invalid the excuse that specific activity is legal in the foreign country, the officials said.

In addition, the new guidelines allow moderate alcohol consumption when off duty, but prohibit alcohol consumption within 10 hours of reporting for duty or at any time when at the hotel where the protected official is staying, the officials explained.

An additional supervisor from the Office of Professional Responsibility will now accompany the “jump teams” that bring vehicles for motorcades and other transportation, the officials said. Agents involved in the Colombia incident were part of such a jump team.

Allegations of further transgressions by agents have emerged after the initial reports of heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes last month before Obama arrived in Cartagena.

Recent claims include an account from El Salvador described by CNN affiliate Seattle TV station KIRO as very similar to the Colombia scandal, involving members of the Secret Service and other government agencies.

The KIRO report cited an unnamed U.S. government contractor who worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team in San Salvador before Obama’s trip there in March 2011.

The source said he was with about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in the city a few days before Obama arrived. The men drank heavily at the club, and most of them paid extra for access to a VIP section where they were provided sexual favors in return for cash, the source told the station.

The station reported that the strip club’s owner corroborated the allegations. The owner confirmed that a large number of agents, and some military escorts, “descended on his club” that week and were there at least three nights in a row, KIRO reported.

The owner said his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting agents from the FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, KIRO said.

The government contractor source said he told the agents it was a “really bad idea” to take the strippers back to their hotel rooms, but several agents bragged that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it,” KIRO reported.

Panetta said Thursday that his department is not investigating any of its troops over the reported incident in El Salvador. But the State Department is questioning its embassy staff in El Salvador about the allegations, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also is prepared to look into, “in an appropriate manner and immediately,” allegations that it deems “credible” regarding its agents in El Salvador, agency spokesman Rusty Payne said. But he added that, while the DEA has seen news reports, “we are unaware of any allegations of misconduct.”

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New Rules For Agents As Second Secret Service Sex Scandal Surfaces

April 28, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Seeking to shake the disgrace of a prostitution scandal, the Secret Service late on Friday tightened conduct rules for its agents to prohibit them from drinking excessively, visiting disreputable establishments while traveling or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms.

The new behaviour policies apply to Secret Service agents even when they are off duty while traveling, barring them from drinking alcohol within 10 hours of working, according to a memorandum describing the changes obtained by The Associated Press. In some cases under the new rules, chaperones will accompany agents on trips. The embattled Secret Service director, Mark Sullivan, urged agents and other employees to “consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks.”

The Secret Service said it would conduct a training session on ethics next week.

Mr Sullivan said the rules “cannot address every situation that our employees will face as we execute our dual-missions throughout the world.” He added: “The absence of a specific, published standard of conduct covering an act or behaviour does not mean that the act is condoned, is permissible, or will not call for – and result in – corrective or disciplinary action.”

“All employees have a continuing obligation to confront expected abuses or perceived misconduct,” Mr Sullivan said.

The agency-wide changes were intended to staunch the embarrassing disclosures since April 13, when a prostitution scandal erupted in Colombia involving 12 Secret Service agents, officers and supervisors and 12 more enlisted military personnel who were there ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to a South American summit.

But the new policies announced on Friday raised questions about claims that the behaviour discovered in Cartagena was an isolated incident: Why would the Secret Service formally issue new regulations covering thousands of employees if such activities were a one-time occurrence?

“It’s too bad common sense policy has to be dictated in this manner,” said Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “New conduct rules are necessary to preventing more shenanigans from happening in the future, and whether these are the best, and most cost effective, rules to stop future misconduct remains to be seen.”

The new rules did not mention prostitutes or strip clubs, but they prohibit employees from allowing foreigners – except hotel staff or foreign law enforcement colleagues – into their hotel rooms. They also ban visits to “non-reputable” establishments, which were not defined. The State Department was expected to brief Secret Service employees on trips about areas and businesses considered off-limits to them.

During trips in which the presidential limousine and other bulletproof vehicles are transported by plane, senior-level chaperones will accompany agents and enforce conduct rules, including one from the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

In a Wonderland moment, the operator of the “Lips” strip club in San Salvador, Dan Ertel, organised a news conference late on Friday and said he didn’t know whether any Secret Service employees were among his customers. Mr Ertel said the club was the only one in the country where prostitutes don’t work. But a dancer who identified herself by her stage name, Yajaira, told the AP earlier in the day that she would have sex with customers for money after her shift ended.

“You can pay for dances, touch a little, but there’s no sex,” she said. “But if somebody wants, if they pay me enough, we can do it after I leave at 3 in the morning.”

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Peter King, R-N.Y., praised the new rules as “very positive steps by the Secret Service to make clear what is expected of every agent and also makes clear what will not be tolerated.”

The Secret Service already has forced eight employees from their jobs and was seeking to revoke the security clearance of another employee, which would effectively force him to resign. Three others have been cleared of serious wrongdoing. The military was conducting its own, separate investigation but cancelled the security clearances of all 12 enlisted personnel.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assured senators earlier this week that the incident in Colombia appeared to be an isolated case, saying she would be surprised if it represented a broader cultural problem. The next day, the Secret Service acknowledged it was investigating whether its employees hired strippers and prostitutes in advance of Obama’s visit last year to El Salvador. Prostitution is legal in both Colombia and El Salvador.

In a confidential message to senators on Thursday, the Secret Service said its Office of Professional Responsibility had not received complaints about officer behaviour in El Salvador but would investigate.

“Fifteen years in business, it’s the one club in this country that does not prostitute the girls,” said Mr Ertel, the owner of Lips, at his news conference. “Look, every guy that comes in there propositions the girls, and the answer is always going to be ‘no.’ Was there Secret Service in there? I have no idea.”

On Capitol Hill, early signs surfaced of eroding support for the Secret Service director. Mr Grassley said Mr Sullivan’s job could be secure if the scandal were an isolated incident. “But if it goes much deeper, you know, nothing happens or nothing’s changed in Washington if heads don’t roll,” Mr Grassley said on CBS “This Morning.”

A member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., warned against a “knee-jerk reaction” and urged a full investigation. But he compared Mr Sullivan as the agency’s director to the captain of a foundering ship: “I’m a Navy guy,” he said. “The captain of the ship can be in his cabin sleeping and if the ship runs aground the captain of the ship is responsible. I’m not saying anybody’s head should roll here, but I expect the captain of the ship to do the right thing.”

The White House said on Friday that the president remained supportive of Mr Sullivan and confident in the capabilities of the Secret Service.

The fallout from the scandal remained raw. When an AP reporter on Friday visited the home in Maryland of Gregory Stokes, who lost his job in the agency’s first round of disciplinary action, someone in the home called police, who asked the AP to leave his property.

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