"Every mother of a teenager knows a common defense is 'everybody else was doing it,' " said Ms. Napolitano at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. "Well, not everybody else was doing it."
The Secret Service prostitution scandal that originated in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of President Obama's visit there for the Summit of the Americas, was the subject of another hearing on Capitol Hill as Napolitano, whose department oversees the Secret Service, went before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Over the past 2-1/2 years, Napolitano told the concerned senators, the Secret Service office responsible for tracking agent indiscretions had not received any similar complaints – a period that covered 900 foreign trips and 13,000 domestic trips.
"From that standpoint, there was nothing in the record to suggest that this behavior would happen," she said. "It really was, I think, a huge disappointment to the men and women of the Secret Service."
Of the 12 Secret Service agents implicated in the scandal, eight were fired or forced to resign, one received a permanent revocation of his security clearance (requiring the agent to leave the service without a successful appeal), and three were cleared of serious misconduct but will still face "appropriate administrative action," Napolitano said.
She fielded questions about the Secret Service among queries about other matters for which her department bears responsibility, such as immigration and cybersecurity. She also noted that she and President Obama have "full confidence" in Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.
Senators asked whether the service could put in place better training or policing procedures and wondered whether the prostitution incident was part of a systemic problem of "wheels up, rings off," but they appeared to be mostly assuaged by Napolitano's promise that the agency's investigation "will leave no stone unturned" and that the problems probably don't run deeper.
"Nobody wants to see the president's security compromised; nobody wants to see the United States of America embarrassed," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, the committee's chairman. "I can't think of anything, aside from the personal tragedy, that would look worse to the rest of the world if something happened to either President Obama or Governor Romney."