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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Babysitters To Accompany Secret Service Agents To Keep Them From Overdrinking, Bringing Whores To Their Hotel Rooms, And Out Of Sleazy Bars

April 28, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Embarrassed by a prostitution scandal, the Secret Service will assign chaperones on some trips to enforce new rules of conduct that make clear that excessive drinking, entertaining foreigners in their hotel rooms and cavorting in disreputable establishments are no longer tolerated.

The stricter measures, issued by the Secret Service on Friday for agents and employees, apply even when traveling personnel are off duty.

The policies, outlined in a memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, are the agency’s latest attempt to respond to the scandal that surfaced as President Barack Obama was headed to a Latin American summit in Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this month.

The embattled Secret Service director, Mark Sullivan, urged agents and other employees to “consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks.”

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 behavior 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,” Sullivan said.

Ethics classes will be conducted for agency employees next week.

The changes were intended to staunch the embarrassing disclosures since April 13, when a prostitution scandal erupted in Cartagena involving 12 Secret Service agents, officers and supervisors and 12 more enlisted military personnel who were there ahead of Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas.

But the new policies raised questions about claims that the behavior 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 Sen. 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 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 “nonreputable” 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.

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. 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 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 canceled the security clearances of all 12 enlisted personnel.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assured senator 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.

“If they are true, the emergence of these anecdotes about past Secret Service misconduct is precisely why our committee will be trying to determine if such behavior is widespread,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, R-Conn., who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The committee has asked Sullivan for information “related to misconduct by agents on assignment,” he said.

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

On Capitol Hill, early signs surfaced of eroding support for the Secret Service director. Grassley said 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,” Grassley said on CBS “This Morning.”

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

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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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Veteran Lawmaker Wants Independent Investigation Of US Secret Service – “…Nothing’s Changed In Washington If Heads Don’t Roll”

April 27, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – A veteran Republican lawmaker says it’s time for an inspector general’s investigation to find how widespread the problems at the Secret Service are.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says the nation needs to know whether reports of sexual misbehavior by agents traveling in advance of the president reflect part of the culture of the Secret Service. He says national security and the president’s safety could be at risk.

Grassley told CBS’ “This Morning” that the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general can handle the investigation — so long as that office can maintain its independence from the department and the White House.

Grassley said Friday that officials must be held accountable. As he put it, “You know nothing’s changed in Washington if heads don’t roll.”

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New US Secret Service Scandal – El Salvador: Agents Bragged About Routine Use Of Third-World Whores While On Out Of Country Details For Presidential Visits

April 26, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Seattle-based Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne (KIROTV- CBS- COX MEDIA GROUP) just returned from El Salvador, where he interviewed a U.S. government subcontractor who worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team (snipers, K-9 and explosives sweeps) in San Salvador prior to President Obama’s trip there in March of 2011.

The eyewitness says he joined about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in San Salvador a few days before President Obama and his family arrived in El Salvador to meet with its new president, Mauricio Funes.

This source witnessed the majority of the men drink heavily (“wasted,” “heavily intoxicated”) at the strip club. He says most of the Secret Service “advance-team” members also paid extra for access to the VIP section of the club where they were provided a number of sexual favors in return for their cash. Although our source says he told the agents it was a “really bad idea” to take the strippers back to their hotel rooms, several agents bragged that they “did this all the time” and “not to worry about it.” Our source says at least two agents had escorts check into their rooms. It is unclear whether the escorts who returned to the hotels were some of the strippers from the same club.

These alleged incidents in El Salvador occurred a full year prior to recent revelations that secret service agents used prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, on a presidential trip this month.

To further confirm information provided about behaviors in El Salvador that reportedly occurred in March of 2011, Halsne interviewed the owner of the San Salvador strip club in which the subcontractor said they visited. The strip club’s owner confirmed a large number of U.S. secret service agents (and some military escorts) “descended on his club” that week prior to President Obama’s visit. He claims agents were there at least three nights in a row. “No surprise to me.” The owner told Halsne his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting FBI and DEA agents. The owner says his reputation for “security” and “privacy” makes him a popular strip club owner with “those who want to be discreet.” He told Halsne during a lengthy interview, he doesn’t allow prostitution inside the club and that all his “girls” are at least 18-years-old. He says the girls can do what they want after work, but he discourages them from making contact with customers at other locations.

This investigation is still fast-developing. Halsne has names of some of the agents allegedly involved in the partying and has viewed records which add credibility to the subcontractor’s eyewitness testimony. KIRO-TV is currently writing and editing-together a series of television stories for air beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 26.

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Strip Clubs And Hiring Prostitutes While Secret Service Agents Are On The Road Is Nothing New

April 25, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Some Secret Service employees accused of misconduct in the Colombian prostitution scandal are privately contending that their conduct didn’t warrant dismissal because senior managers tolerated similar behavior during official trips, according to people familiar with the employees’ thinking.

Several of the men who agreed to resign under pressure last week are also considering reversing their decisions and fighting to keep their jobs, said the people knowledgeable about the case.

The prospect of Secret Service agents sharing embarrassing tales about rank-and-file employees and superiors partying to the hilt could bring more anguish to an agency reeling from scandal.

Those close to the accused employees said that in an effort to fight for their jobs they could opt to divulge details of how colleagues spent some of their downtime on presidential trips — drinking heavily, visiting strip clubs and cavorting with women for hire.

“Of course it has happened before” said one agent not implicated in the matter, remarking on the Secret Service’s history of occasionally licentious partying. “This is not the first time. It really only blew up in this case because the [U.S. Embassy] was alerted.”

In a statement Tuesday, Assistant Director Paul S. Morrissey said the service “is committed to conducting a full, thorough and fair investigation in this matter, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action should any additional information come to light.”

President Obama, visiting the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Tuesday, faced questions from late-night host Jimmy Fallon about the quality of the president’s protectors. Obama stressed that the actions of a few should not overshadow the dedication of the agency.

“The Secret Service, these guys are incredible,” Obama said, according to a press pool report of his visit. “They protect me, they protect our girls. A couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do. What they were thinking, I don’t know. That’s why they’re not there anymore.”

Twelve Secret Service employees and 11 military service members have been implicated in the misconduct ahead of Obama’s trip this month to Cartagena, Colombia, for an economic summit. The men are accused of heavy drinking, visits to strip clubs and payments to prostitutes.

Last week, the agency moved to oust six of the service’s employees, including two supervisors, and cleared a seventh of serious misconduct. On Tuesday, it made decisions on the other five, saying that two more had agreed to resign, two would retain their service employment but face demotion, and another would be recommended for dismissal but could work for other federal agencies.

Lawrence Berger, attorney for several employees who were recommended for removal, declined to comment on his clients’ cases.

As the investigation continues, differing accounts have emerged about the men’s alleged behavior on the night of April 11 and morning of April 12. Congressional officials briefed on the investigation have said some of the men argued that they did not know the women were prostitutes when they brought them back to the Hotel Caribe, where they were lodging, not far from the Hilton where Obama was scheduled to stay.

In an internal employee-only briefing Tuesday, Secret Service security officials said that not all of the men may have had sexual encounters with prostitutes, according to a person familiar with the briefing. But the officials said that the employees implicated in Cartagena violated policy simply by soliciting prostitutes and negotiating prices for services, whether they received the services or not. In Colombia, prostitution is legal, but hotel guests are often asked to pay a fee if an additional guest joins them overnight.

The people familiar with the accused employees said some of them have said there was no sexual activity because the men were so drunk that they fell asleep immediately after bringing the women to their rooms.

Agents not involved in the Colombia trip, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss matters publicly, said the events in Cartagena may be embarrassing, but they are not without precedent. They pointed to a 2009 visit to Buenos Aires by former President Bill Clinton, whose protective detail included agents and uniformed officers. During that trip, the agents said, members of the detail went out for a late night of partying at strip clubs.

“You take a bunch of guys out of the country and have a lot of women showering them with attention, bad things are bound to happen,” one agent said.

The scandal has been a deep blow to morale among current and former agents, who feel tarred by the behavior of the relatively small group of men, said James Huse Jr. , a former assistant director. He called the alleged misconduct “an egregious failure on the part of those people involved.”

One former agent disputed the suggestion that agents and officers accused of misdeeds in Cartagena risked impairing their abilities to perform their assignments after Obama arrived two days later. “Some guys could have a good time Wednesday night, and Friday morning they would be on their post, shaved and ready to go,” said this person, who emphasized that he does not condone paying prostitutes for sex.

Huse said he is particularly dumbfounded that the men partied so openly during an era when smartphones and social media can so easily spread details of misbehavior. “We live in different age that makes the behavior of these people more impossible to comprehend,” he said. “What were they thinking?”

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