More Agents Step Down Amid Scandal

Apr 25, 2012

Wall Street Journal -- by Evan Perez

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Secret Service said two more agents have resigned and it was attempting to oust another, as the agency reached decisions on the fate of all 12 employees implicated in an alleged prostitution scandal in Colombia two weeks ago.

In all, eight employees have resigned, retired or been removed for cause, and three have been cleared of serious misconduct, the Secret Service said. The agency said it would permanently revoke the security clearance of one employee, which if upheld would force that employee to leave the agency.

The single employee being removed for cause is challenging the dismissal, according to a lawmaker investigating the incident.

Tuesday's actions show how the agency is trying to move swiftly to contain damage that began when allegations surfaced that agents brought back prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, days before President Barack Obama arrived for the Summit of the Americas.

The Pentagon has said it is separately investigating military personnel who also were in Cartagena to prepare for the presidential summit.

"The Secret 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," assistant director Paul Morrissey said in a statement.

The incident emerged after an early-morning payment dispute April 12 between one of the men and a woman he had brought to his room. The Secret Service hasn't identified the men. As many as 20 women were involved, U.S. lawmakers have said.

The man involved in the payment dispute resigned last Friday, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), who heads the Homeland Security committee with jurisdiction over the Secret Service, said he welcomed the relatively quick resolution.

"It's almost unprecedented for an investigation of this scope to move this quickly," he said. "Everyone that we know was involved was now dealt with."

The White House said Monday it checked records and concluded that none of its staff committed misconduct. However, several lawmakers have pressed the White House to release more information about its internal review.

At least one of the Secret Service agents involved in the alleged misconduct was staying at the hotel where Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stayed days later.

Secret Service investigators flew to Colombia to interview the women and also subjected the employees involved to polygraphs.

In interviews with investigators, some of the men offered differing accounts of events in Colombia, according to lawmakers and others familiar with the matter.

A few aren't married and some say they brought women back to their rooms but didn't pay for sex, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Obama, visiting the set of a comedy talk show on Tuesday, praised the Secret Service for protecting him and his family.

"So a couple of knuckleheads shouldn't detract from what they do," Mr. Obama said at a taping of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon." "But what these guys were thinking, I don't know. That's why they're not there anymore."