Secret Service chief denies 'culture' of impropriety
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said the scandal involving agents and prostitutes in Colombia was not part of a 'systemic issue.' But Sen. Susan Collins said it 'was almost certainly not an isolated incident.'
(Page 2 of 2)
Although the incident was serious and certainly an embarrassment to an agency charged with protecting the president and other high-ranking US officials, Sullivan said there had been no security breaches in Colombia.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"At the time the misconduct occurred, none of the individuals involved … had received any specific protective information, sensitive security documents, firearms, radios or other security related equipment in their hotel rooms," Sullivan said in his testimony. The officers had not yet received their briefing on Obama's attendance at the summit.
Still, he said, “I am deeply disappointed, and I apologize for the misconduct of these employees and the distraction that it has caused.”
As the scandal unfolded last month, Sullivan – a 29-year veteran of the Secret Service whose duty assignments include two tours with the Presidential Protective Division – responded with a stern note to agents about their behavior, especially when on assignment abroad.
In an internal memo Sullivan said, “Alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts” and drinking less than 10 hours before reporting for duty is prohibited. (Previous rules included a six-hour limit between drinking and work.)
Most important in light of the recent episode in Cartagena, foreign nationals other than hotel staff are not allowed in agents’ rooms, and agents are not allowed to patronize “nonreputable establishments” (strip clubs and brothels). The fact that prostitution is legal in some parts of Colombia makes no difference, he implied.
"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,” Sullivan warned. "All employees have a continuing obligation to confront expected abuses or perceived misconduct.”
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “four Secret Service employees have decided to fight their dismissals … 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,” the newspaper reported, a charge that Director Sullivan in his Senate testimony Wednesday called “just absurd.”
In addition to the Secret Service scandal, the US military is investigating the involvement of 12 enlisted personnel on assignment in Colombia as part of the security detail last month. The Drug Enforcement Administration also is investigating reports that DEA agents posted to Colombia have brought prostitutes to their apartments.