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Last Friday, three U.S. Secret Service agents resigned over the sex scandal in Colombia, as the result of a boozed-filled party with prostitutes in Cartagena prior to President Obama’s visit on April 14 to attend the Summit of the Americas.
The agents’ party came to light when Dania Suarez, a 24-year-old single mother, made a disturbance after one of the agents refused to pay her the agreed amount of $800 to spend a night with him. After the local police and hotel security were brought in, the fuss finally got back to the Secret Service superiors. There was supposedly 20 prostitutes at the party and authorities are probing whether some of them were underage girls.
Nine out of 12 agents allegedly involved have resigned or are going to be forced out, while three of them were cleared of serious misconduct. The U.S. military is also investigating the other 12 servicemen who were in Columbia helping the agents. The White House did an investigation to determine if any of its personnel were engaged in the notorious incident, but announced Monday that there was no evidence that proves these employees were involved.
“There was no indication that any member of the White House advance team engaged in any improper conduct or behavior,” said Press Secretary Jay Carney. The White House clearly wants to keep the scandal at arm’s length since Carney insisted the White House Communication Agency, despite its name, is not a member of White House staff. He said, “They are not chosen by the White House staff. These are military personnel staffed by the military.”
Representative Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, posed the question of whether federal money was used and if agents had weapons and classified materials in the rooms in which they brought the prostitutes. He said, “whether any of those foreign nationals (prostitutes) had access to any information that could have compromised the U.S. President or that could make an enemy force aware of the practices and procedures of the Secret Service.” King also wanted to find out whether the incident was part of a pattern. “Was it an aberration- something that happens once every 1,000 times – or something that is condoned?”
The embarrassing incident has drawn the attention of lawmakers onto the security and the work of the elite protection agency. The authorities also argued that this kind of incident might not happen if there were more women in the Secret Service Agency, where females make up only about 11 percent of agents and uniformed officers. This is considerably lower than the 19 percent of female special agents in the FBI.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan provided detailed responses to 50 questions by Peter King relating to the embarrassing case, the tarnished image of the Secret Service and a possible security breach. In an interview with CNN Tuesday night, Peter King said that Sullivan revealed that three of the agents involved refused to do the polygraph test. These agents were the first people who were forced to leave after the scandal disclosed.
Wednesday morning, King said that no security breach arose from the secret agents in relation to the Colombian hookers. “We know that it appears that no material was obtained by any of the prostitutes, nothing is missing, all the BlackBerrys are accounted for, there was no president’s schedule available. It does not appear that any of the 12 women had any involvement other than prostitution.”
However, he supposed this incident opposed the principles of the Secret Service and that this is an opportunity for the Secret Service to fix the mistake and do everything that they can to make sure that this will never happen again.